In the footsteps of George Orwell

Deliveroo rider © Getty Images
We need to raise his wages

Hired book coverHired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain
by James Bloodworth
Atlantic Books, £12.99

Everyone knows the casual economy has led to a decline in wages and conditions for many unskilled workers. But sometimes it’s hard to see just how big the losses have been. James Bloodworth follows in George Orwell’s footsteps and goes undercover to explore the world of casual labour. He finds that it “is a place of relentless physical effort, minimal personal warmth, small jealousies and unresolved grievances”, says Julian Glover in the Evening Standard.

“This is a very discomforting book, no matter what your politics might be,” says Rod Liddle in The Times. “We are dragged from one… overcrowded lodging to the next and from warehouse gulags patrolled by vindictive, bullying, middle managers to zero-hour contracts in care homes and the deathless boredom of an insurance-company call centre”. The biggest flaw is failing to see that “a hideously exploited underclass of cheap foreign labour has effectively created the conditions Bloodworth describes”. If the author can’t grasp that, then “no matter how good his book is, he is part of the problem”.

“No one should have to work in the conditions Bloodworth experienced,” says Nick Cohen in The Guardian. But “every [sympathetic] reader would have to accept paying more for the… services they now receive at bargain rates.” Bloodworth argues this is “a price worth paying” and that “if we do not stop the mistreatment of… Deliveroo riders, one day everyone could wake up to find their employment rights gone”.