Work to Live, or Live to Work?

With London living costs remaining sky high (rents rose 6.6 per cent in the year to last August while the Retail Price Index hovered around 5 per cent in 2011) while wages remain relatively flat, registering growth of around 1.4 per cent last year in the UK, I’m wondering how long it’ll be before it’s not worth going to work any more. How long before we all just think fuck this and stop bothering, creating a social revolution in the process? Because work’s really not all that fun, is it?

Meanwhile, there are fewer ‘dream jobs’ around, as evidenced by the fact you now need three years’ experience and a doctorate to become a waiter. The bubble truly has burst, covering the western world in a slimy recession. The efforts of mass graduation that had us all believing we would walk into 30k first jobs, and it would be uphill from there, have faltered. Many degrees became effectively worthless, and led to nothing more than ‘internships’ and Dickensian-sounding ‘work schemes’. In retail, too. What an insult. Wasn’t I doing that at 15 and getting paid?

There’s no denying there’s been a paradigm shift. But it’s not all bad. As Niccolò Machiavelli said, ‘Never waste the opportunities offered by a good crisis’ – a phrase bandied about much in the last three years.

The thing is, when work is a soul-destroying-pain-in-the-arse but you’re being paid huge sums of money to do it, you’re less likely to look at your life and question whether you’re really satisfied or not. When work is a soul-destroying-pain-in-the-arse and you’re still heating the house with an oven, you’re more likely to think, ‘Hey, this isn’t optimal, what am I going to do?!’

So I think people are being more creative. Many people I know are channelling their needs that are unmet in the formal labour market into blogs, freelance work, music, extra-curricular projects, while doing jobs around this to make ends meet.

And it seems I’m not alone in finding this. According to a recent Psychologies magazine article, people are increasingly taking the ‘portfolio career’ approach – doing more than one job to balance the activities that remunerate us well, with those that reward us. The magazine cites a study which finds that 65 per cent of the UK’s 1.15 million people who have two or more jobs do so out of choice.

This, according to the article, is a relatively new phenomenon connected with the recession, and is giving people more flexibility and freedom. And of course the internet makes so many more things possible: projects can be up and running at little or no cost; people can disseminate their ideas.

So the fat paycheck dream is dead. Well, good. Because how hollow is that anyway?

Image By DeclanTM courtesy of Flickr

1 Response

  1. Chloe Jones

    I fully agree! the recession is at least making us think outside the box and question mindless career ‘progression’. Life is too short to be miserable AND underpaid!

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