Tag Archives: United Kingdom

(729) Trek of the interns

OtoApril sees the eightieth anniversary of the start of the On-to-Ottawa Trek.  We’d rather not wait to mention and think about the parallels between what caused the trek and where we are in 2015, they are that powerful.  The trek was a social movement born of the immense difficulties of the Great Depression in western Canada.  A large body of unemployed and disaffected men gathered and moved by rail toward the capital, orchestrated largely by the Communist Party of Canada, in order to protest their treatment at the hands of economic forces.

Just what a dramatic potential challenge to the austerity economics of the Canadian government the trek represented is largely forgotten. The tepid efforts of the federal government to do much for the unemployed beyond the provision of a system of labour camps offering a wage of twenty-cents-a-day provoked anger in many Canadians.  The Tories botched their handling of the trek, which culminated in political scandal and the Regina Riot with two dead and over one hundred arrests.  The next federal election saw the governing Conservatives punished with the loss of ninety-five seats.

Comparing the state of men labouring at twenty-cents-a-day to the interns and low wage workers of right now shouldn’t require much effort, whether you are the government or a working person.  In fact, there would seem to be a continuity.  Instead of railway boxcars we have, perhaps, the Internet drawing the ninety-nine percent together in a common cause; the fight against harmful impersonal economic forces that look set to overwhelm society.

The historian in us was drawn this week to black and white photos of men riding boxcars eastward.  At first they seem like tokens of another world.  Within minutes the same Twitter feed that brought us eighty years into the past delivered these two items.

Unpaid labour fits into Harper’s plan: Mallick
thestar.com

Employers embrace the warm glow of paying their staff enough to live on. The Walmart effect and the example of certain London local councils has led to pay rises for many. But poverty wages elsewhere could be hard to shift
theguardian.com

image: On-to-Ottawa trekkers boarding rail cars in Kamloops, BC.  Archives Canada via Wikimedia Commons

(647) The low wage trap [UK report]

resolutionA report from the UK finds low wage workers quite trapped.

Low-paid workers unable to escape poverty trap. Only one in four workers who were low-paid in 2001 managed to move on to higher pay after a decade, says social mobility study
theguardian.com

Escape plan: understanding who progresses from low pay and who gets stuck
Resolution Foundation – at their site is a series of papers on pay & social difficulty in the UK

(471) Funeral poverty

DeathWords that can be paired to poverty seem to be in no short supply.

Rest in Poverty – Cost Of Dying Up AGAIN
SunLife

Funeral poverty in the UK: issues for policy
University of Bath Institute for Social Policy

Cost of living? What about the cost of being dead? The spiralling price of funerals is a symptom of the triumph of the market and the accompanying poverty of civic life Guardian

image: Dance of Death by Michael Wolgemut via Wikimedia Commons

(453) Enfield series

EnfieldA feature series started today on theguardian.com about northeastern London’s Enfield.  The sorry state of Enfield makes for an excellent read when it comes to understanding how bad a place can get. Enfield was once an industrial dynamo and seems on the edge of catastrophe now with the one-percenter’s London of bailed-out banks and high consumerism nowhere in sight.  Crime, poverty and unemployment have wrecked the reputation of the area and driven off investment.  Shades of Detroit, Michigan and Camden New Jersey, America’s moribund urban industrial centres emerge as Aditya Chakrabortty describes how his home turf fell down the basement stairs.  Additionally, nearly every part of suburban poverty as known on this continent is found in Enfield, especially the frustrations of poor transit connections to the wider economy and the way that holds back recovery.  The neglect and failure of this once mainstream part of London is almost complete for many of its people and now the future has truly arrived.  It seems something radical, something experiemental is about the only thing left for Enfield, hence the name of the series.

The Enfield Experiment: London’s fortunes distilled into a single borough.
The Guardian’s senior economics commentator kicks off a new series looking at the challenges facing the London suburb where he grew up – and the ideas that might offer a radical fix

image: Stu Phillips via Wikimedia Commons

(431) Scotland: welfare reform & food bank use [Report]

ScotlandRecent efforts to reform welfare benefit schemes in the United Kingdom are under way and as expected are no small source of contention.  An important possible measure of the success or failure of this austerity-driven reform might sensibly be found in food bank use.  Scotland and England have both seen recent high level reports into such things.  Yesterday a blogger at the Guardian online shared a positive impression of the seriousness and value of the Scottish report and contrasted its publication with the suppression of a similar document produced in England.

Overview of Food Aid Provision in Scotland
38-page .pdf file from the Scottish Government

Scottish government report links welfare reform to food bank growth
Cuts Blog – theguardian.com

 

(413) ATM deserts in the UK

Card MemorialAfter two years aggregating material on suburban-poverty.com we aren’t surprised when some new level of detail emerges about the constant stress and inconvenience of poverty. One day into 2014 and we are learning about bank machine deserts.  Even when doing something as relatively simple as accessing your own money for some basic errand social difficulty can assert itself.

Distance exerts a tyranny over those not doing particularly well as we see in data emerging in the UK about income and bank-machine locations.  There are some 269 areas where low income people are more than a half mile from the nearest bank machine that doesn’t charge them for withdrawals.  This represents a slight improvement from an earlier estimate of free cash machine scarcity for the UK but a government poverty adviser took exception in a piece in today’s Guardian to the difficulty low income people face in accessing their own money.

It looks like there is a need for some regulation of fees and machine accessibility in the UK.  Apparently some seven million people in the country live almost completely off cash which is usually needed more by those on low incomes.

300,000 poor people live more than 1km from free cash machine. Labour MP Frank Field says figures show it is ‘time to take the gloves off’, with not enough progress in poorer areas

image: One Half 3544 via Wikimedia Commons