Professor of social and economic security at the University of Bath Guy Standing’s 2011 book The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class identifies a group that he says has emerged as a result of the global recession. The book describes a major shift in class and income structure.
According to Standing, millions of people across the world are slipping from the middle ground into increasingly precarious financial positions. At the other end of society, an extremely rich elite is moving further away from the pack, resulting in an increasingly fragmented society.
Tens of millions are facing ‘chronic insecurity’, according to Standing. ‘Insecurity in their jobs, insecurity in their housing, insecurity in the sense that they have no occupational identity and don’t feel that they have a career that they are building,’ he says.
Standing believes the current economic climate has led to uncertainty for people in all walks of life. ‘This is leading to a feeling that the precariat could include me tomorrow,’ he says. ‘I could easily fall out of my middle-class position or my salaried position or my children could easily be in the precariat.’ Standing says the insecurities of the precariat are not those of a minority. He says there is a sense that nobody knows what is going to happen next.
He believes brands have a responsibility to improve the experience of the precariat. Their insecurities, uncertainties and frustrations come from feeling disenfranchised from society, he believes. Standing says that by investing in communities, brands can help relieve these problems and reconnect with a growing group of consumers. ‘We need companies to help communities to have the facilities that enable people in the precariat to participate in public life,’ he says.
By investing in communities, Standing believes brands can help the precariat re-engage with society. As austerity budgets cut funding to public spaces such as libraries and parks, Standing says brands can step in and become ambassadors for communities. This kind of investment can add positivity to communities and help to improve consumer confidence.
Top five take-outs
1. Be positive. In times of economic uncertainty consumers respond to a positive message.
2. Invest in communities. Connecting with communities builds a relationship between brand and consumer and helps to build mutual feelings of trust and positivity.
3. Embrace the ‘blitz spirit’. In times of austerity, people are encouraged by an ‘in it together’ spirit. Brands that understand what consumers are going through will connect better with the precariat.
4. Think long-term. Economists have said that the current financial situation will not improve in the next few years. Community investment needs to be for the long term.
5. Invest in public spaces. Governments are increasingly cutting public spending on spaces such as parks and libraries. Brands that invest in public spaces can help consumers to re-engage with society.