The term ‘precariat’ dates from the 1980s and was first used by French sociologists to describe a growing number of temporary and part-time workers who were thought to constitute a new class. More recently, the precariat has been recognised as a global class. The entry of China and other emerging economies into the world labour market added some 2 billion workers to the global workforce, most of them earning just one fifth of what Western workers were paid. This led both to a downward pressure on wages and a relocation of many companies to where labour costs were cheaper. The precariat is the result of the processes of globalisation, a technological revolution and the demand by employers for ‘flexible labour’.
In his 2011 book The Precariat, Guy Standing referred to the precariat as a ‘new dangerous class’. This was because it is internally divided and lacks any occupational identity to give members meaning to their life. This in turn can lead to the ‘villainisation’ of migrants and other vulnerable groups, and can increase susceptibility to political extremism for members of the precariat.
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