A Precariat Charter: Combating Insecurity and Inequality

Guy Standing, Professor of Development, University of London

Co-presented with the Australian Social Policy Association and the School of Social and Political Sciences, the University of Sydney

5 March, 2015

Globalisation, the neo-liberal economic model that has underpinned it and an ongoing technological revolution have generated a global class structure superimposed on national class structures. The emerging mass class is the precariat, which is growing rapidly in most countries, including Australia. It is a class-in-the-making, not yet a class-for-itself, but it is the new dangerous class. It feels alienated from mainstream political establishments.

The precariat fundamentally differs from the proletariat, having distinctive relations of production, distinctive relations of distribution and distinctive relations to the state. Drawing on a trilogy of recent books, this seminar will define the precariat and explain why it is a dangerous class, reflecting particularly on the breakdown of the 20th century income distribution system.

This year is the 800th anniversary of the Charter of Liberties that became the Magna Carta, arguably, with the Charter of the Forests of 1217, the first class-based set of demands by the emerging classes of its time. Today, what would a Precariat Charter look like? And how would it differ from a proletariat Charter had there been one a century ago?


Professor Guy Standing

Guy Standing is Professor of Development Studies at SOAS, University of London, and was previously Professor of Economic Security at the University of Bath and Professor of Labour Economics at Monash University, Melbourne. Before that, he was Director of the ILO’s Socio-Economic Security Programme (1999-2006) and Director of the ILO’s Labour Market Policies Branch.

An economist, with a Ph.D. from Cambridge University, and a Master’s Degree in industrial relations from the University of Illinois, he is a founder and co-President of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), an NGO promoting basic income as a right, with members in over 50 countries. He has been consultant to many international agencies, including the UNDP, UNICEF, World Bank, European Commission and DFID, as well as governments and trades unions. In 1995-96, he was research director for President Mandela’s Labour Market Policy Commission, co-authoring Re-structuring the Labour Market: The South African Challenge.

Recent books are A Precariat Charter: From Denizens to Citizens (2014), The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class (2011 & 2014), Social Income and Insecurity in Gujarat (2010), Work after Globalization: Building Occupational Citizenship (2009). The Precariat has been translated into thirteen languages.

For the past four years he has also been working on pilot basic income schemes in India, working with SEWA, a union representing women ‘informal’ workers. Inter alia, this has resulted in S.Davala, R.Jhabvala, S.Mehta and G.Standing, Basic Income: A Transformative Policy for India (New Delhi and London, Bloomsbury, 2015).