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The problem of low wage work runs far beyond workfare

Date: 3. March 2012
Matthew Pennycook

This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post

The recent furore surrounding the UK government's Work Experience programme has centred somewhat narrowly on the rights and wrongs of large corporations benefiting from free youth labour. Largely absent from the debate has been the wider problem of low wage work in our economy. At a time of rising unemployment one could be forgiven for thinking that raising job quality and wages is hardly a priority. Yet there are good reasons for believing that, alongside the pressing issue of unemployment among low-skilled workers, improving low paid jobs will be one of the key routes to higher living standards in the next decade.

Precarious low paid work - often with little means of advancement - is now a key feature of labour markets in advanced economies throughout the world. A combination of factors have driven its onward expansion including declining worker bargaining power and technological advances that have driven down wages for tasks traditionally undertaken by low and medium-skilled workers while increasing the demand for low-skill, low-wage work in personal service sectors.

 

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