What is the precariat? Definition and some relevant examples

The Precariat and Guy Standing - image 1
Prof. Guy Standing wrote the book ‘The Precariat – The New Dangerous Class.’

The precariat refers to people whose jobs and incomes are insecure. When most people use the term, they are considering a group of people as a class. Precariat is a blend of precarious and proletariat.

In economics and sociology, the precariat is a social class comprising people suffering from precarity. Precarity or precariousness is a precarious existence which lacks job security, predictability, and psychological or material welfare.

Members of the precariat lack job security. Their precarious existence is the result of having intermittent employment or being underemployed. Many economists and sociologist say that the precariat emerged as a result of the entrenchment of neoliberal capitalism.

Guy Standing and the emerging precariat class

Guy Standing is a British professor of Development Studies at the University of London. He co-founded the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN).

Prof. Standing is the author of the book The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class (2011).

He argues that globalization has pushed more and more people into the precariat, which he describes as a new emerging class.

The following comes from a Wikipedia article:

“According to Standing, the precariat is not only suffering from job insecurity but also identity insecurity and lack of time control, not least due to workfare social policies.”

“Standing describes the precariat as an agglomerate of several different social groups, notably immigrants, young educated people, and those who have fallen out of the old-style industrial working class.”

Prof. Standing urges policymakers to make dramatic social reforms so that financial security becomes a right. Every country should have a basic income, which he believes would boost GDP growth. GDP stands for gross domestic product.

Populist politicians

The young precariat class has become a target of populist politicians. Donald Trump and Brexit campaigners focused on blue-collar workers without secure jobs with great success.

Across Europe and other parts of the world, populist politicians are exploiting the precariat’s grievances.

The class is even emerging in Japan, where, historically, wealth inequality has been relatively low and job security high. There are today, in Japan, approximately twenty million freeters (フリータ) – people who lack full-time employment or are unemployed.