Monday, September 21, 2009

The (Non) Work Ethic

Work. Who needs it?

As I write, the US unemployment rate is just shy of ten per cent, which is high enough to have commentators alarmed. In the United Kingdom, there are five million grown-ups – or ten per cent of the entire adult population – who have not done a day’s work since Tony Blair’s Labour Party came to power in 1997. Are they “unemployed”? Not exactly. For most of that period, Britain was booming. It still is, by comparison with most places, which is why the dulcet tones of Slavic languages ring out from every coffee counter. But not a lot of Cockney. It would be truer to say those five million Britons are not so much without employment as without need of employment: They exist in a world in which “work” is an increasingly foreign concept. In one-sixth of British households, not a single family member works. One-fifth of British children are raised in homes in which no adult works.

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