Strivers v. Skivers: war on the working class

What class are you?

Odds-on a little voice in your head answered ‘middle class’. But here’s a question for you:

If you no longer had an income from salary or wages, how long would it be before you needed credit or some form of help to cover your bills?

a) One month or less

b) Up to three months

c) Up to six months

d) Up to a year

e) 1 – 5 years

f) More than 5 years

g) What’s a salary? I’m independently wealthy.

If you answered (g) consider yourself lucky and try to be a good person. If you answered (a) – (d), as most of us would, congratulations and welcome to the working class!

Our image of the working class is outdated. We think Albert Finney in Saturday Night, Sunday Morning. In truth, you are working class if you rely on being able to exchange your labour for wages or salary in order to meet the cost of living. No matter how educated you are, how much Boden you buy, no matter how des-res your home is, if you need your monthly pay cheque to meet your cost of living, you are working class.

The great myth sustaining modern politics is that of the squeezed middle. All those good, middle class people who are suffering that governments everywhere wish they could help. The innocent bystanders of the global financial crisis. The strivers of the world, who go to work everyday and pay their taxes and try to get ahead. You.

What, or who, is stopping the government giving you all the help you so righteously deserve?  Skivers. Lazy, no good wastrels sitting around all day, living it up in the lap of luxury at taxpayers’ expense. Watching their plasma TVs and smoking and drinking. And breeding so they can get more benefits. Scum.

Also You.

In 1997 John Prescott told us ‘we’re all middle class now’ and we believe it, but it’s not true. The middle class is the gap between people who have to work in exchange for a wage in order to meet the cost of living, and those who are so rich that they don’t. 50% of Britons have zero assets – they don’t even own their own home, so the working class is most of us. Yet most of us don’t think that way. A recent poll in the US found that 73% of people self-identify as middle-class.

The gap between your being a Striver and a Skiver is exactly how long you can survive without your wage if you lose your job or find yourself unable to work.

Think about how big that gap is for you.

Of course, should the worst happen, you’ll do your best to stretch that gap as far as possible. Selling stuff, renegotiating payments on things, cutting back on luxuries. But if no job is there, what next?

This Mum starves herself a few days a week. She lost her job and can’t get another one. Her husband is still working but they can’t meet their bills.

Foodbanks, which hand out food to the poor, are doing GREAT, right now. People are walking miles to get to them when they can’t afford the bus fare

Others are committing suicide, like this Dad who could not face his family becoming homeless when his Housing Benefit was cut. Housing benefit doesn’t even go to the poor, it goes to landlords.

Pitting the Strivers against the Skivers pits the working class against itself.  The very poor versus the not-quite-as-poor (yet).  And this grand narrative is allowing the government to strip away the social safety net that should be there to support YOUR family if you lose your job or get sick.

It also casts us all as nothing more than cogs in a machine for generating profit. The sub-text of the grand narrative is that if you are of no use to the market, you are of no use. No job for you anymore? Then we don’t care what happens to you and your family. Figure it out yourself.

So next time you read about benefit scroungers, and how important it is for the government to take away benefits so they have an incentive to work, don’t get sucked in. People on benefits are, for the most part, people just like you and me. People who want to work for a living but for one reasons or another cannot. Don’t let politicians (and, yes, I include Labour in that statement) get away with demonising working people. You could be next.

6 thoughts on “Strivers v. Skivers: war on the working class

  1. Why can’t people see that the disparity between rich and poor doesn’t exist because of ‘deserving’ but, so much of the time, through the accident of birth or circumstance. Hard work doesn’t always pay off unfortunately and NOW hard work isn’t even on offer to so many who’d happily do it. And the people that affects aren’t in that position because they’re bad people. Because they’re shiftless or lazy or stupid. There aren’t enough jobs. And if people don’t have the training or education or experience to get the ones that do exist, that’s rarely solely because of decisions they’ve made. And those that find themselves more financially secure should consider themselves simply on the sunnier side of luck. Even an ability to work hard or learn is a product of genetics and the environment we happened to be raised in. So it’s the duty of the privileged to spread their good luck around. We’re taught to share our toys when we’re young so why should adulthood suddenly change that?


  2. I’ve worked close to senior management and directors now for the best part of twenty years and it never ceases to amaze me what a talentless bunch they are. OK there’s been the odd one that you could say, yep, you deserve your success but in the main they’re 24 carat crawlers. The one factor they will never acknowledge in their so called success is luck, becasue take it from me they are extremely lucky. if you want examples of this just look at Cameron and Osborne. I rest my case.


    1. I couldn’t agree more, Ian. The idea that their labour is worth so much more than someone elses is an obscenity. Most of the corporations that don’t pay a living wage manage to pay obscene salaries for executives before they pay dividends. There’s plenty of cash to go around, if it weren’t for the greed of the rich.


  3. This is a ridiculous metric. I have been part of the workforce for only 11 months but i could comfortably live off my savings without drastic changes to my lifestyle for half a year. Saying that i’m not middle class is inaccurate; I’m just young.

    Additionally, this says nothing about people who spend more than they make. A person who makes $500K a year but spend $600K are not poor, they are just irresponsible.


    1. So, your argument is because you are lucky, there’s no problem? I hope for your sake the luck holds. Statistically, you will do less well financially than your parents, your generation being the first for whom that is true since WW2.

      The blindness you demonstrate – being unable to see that your good fortune is not shared by most people – is a problem you share with our millionaire cabinet.

      While you can certainly argue that earning £500k a year and spending £600k a year is irresponsible. But that’s not most people’s lives, is it? The fact you use that as an example suggests to me that you have no idea how most people live. The average wage is just £26,500 but average rent on a flat in London is over £15k a year – leaving less than £13k for all other expenses, including Council Tax. The family where the loss of the Mum’s £22k a year job means that she has to go without meals to make ends meet is far more typical. The working poor – people below the poverty line but in full-time work – are one of the biggest burdens on the welfare state in this coubtry. Taxpayers subsidise the profits of companies who don’t pay a living wage but ‘topping up’ the inadequate wage to allow families to meet expenses.


      1. I think since Alex is using $, he/she is likely to be in Aus (someone in the US’s current economic climate is more likely to be only too aware of the millions of people struggling financially). And being in Aus makes us even more cushioned from the severe economic circumstances that currently afflict the majority of the world’s population – apart from the fact that the Aus economy is sound in comparison, our geographic isolation renders young people who’ve grown up in comfortable security oblivious to the fact that they’re in a miniscule minority. I’m not saying that all young people live in contented self-absorption but I know I did to some degree. Ageing and extensive travel led me to see how incredibly lucky I was to have the education, opportunities and personal circumstances I had. I’d wish Alex good luck but he/she already has that – may it continue and may you develop the capacity to share that with others not so fortunate.


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