Europe

Wage theft, zero hour contracts, unpaid internships and Eurozone unemployment

We talk about wage theft, zero hour contracts, unpaid internships and Eurozone unemployment.

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Latest figures from Eurostat shows growing unemployment across Europe. The highest unemployment is in Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Cyprus, and shows the devastating effect of austerity on these societies.

Young people are particularly affected, with youth unemployment at more than 50% in some countries. Women are four times more likely than men to be in part time work.

But why would employers create jobs if they can get people to work for free?

We are seeing a rise in precarious work: in the UK, the TUC has called on the Government to crack down on zero hours contracts. There are an estimated 200,000 people in the UK with no guaranteed hours or income.

This is an issue particularly in the care sector, where in many cases workers are only paid for “client contact time”, and not for the time spent travelling between people they care for.

The situation is exacerbated by unpaid internships, which have become increasingly necessary to get a job in many fields. There are about 100,000 unpaid internships in the UK, and this has a real class dynamic: only people from relatively wealthy backgrounds have the financial support to be able to work for free for protracted periods. This has the effect of reserving certain professions for people from higher social strata.

Wage theft is a growing issue across the world, including in the US, where Walmart warehouse workers are fighting to stop their employer stealing their wages.

With university now cripplingly expensive, it becomes almost impossible for many young people to get a start in life. Pensions are being eroded, which means many people will have nothing in retirement either.

This is an explosive social situation, and is likely to lead to at least a decade of protest and insurrection – unless politicians wake up, smell the coffee and give back our stolen futures.

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