We have to let you go

| 1st May 2009
Why are we clinging to the outmoded employment aspirations of an ailing system? You’re not redundant, you’re job-free, says Tom Hodgkinson

If there’s one absurd thing about the recent protests in the street, it has been the wimpish cry for ‘jobs’. Just as businesses have been nagging the Government and the banks to give them more debt, when it was surely the excess of debt that got us into trouble in the first place, so now the socalled anti-capitalist campaigners cry for ‘more jobs’, failing to see that the ‘job’ as we know it is one of the more unpleasant inventions of the capitalistic set-up.

It is precisely the job system that we must transcend if we are to find liberty. Having a job is the same as being a slave. The corporation is your master and you must identify your interests with those of the corporation – that is if you are to keep your salary. Jobs are a leading cause of depression and mental breakdowns. Getting a new job will not help: after the initial pleasure of an apparently better working life vanishes, you will be back in the same old mire of office politics, stupid bosses and smug, lordly overpaid board members.

I’m heartily fed up with the wet, liberal hand-wringers who say to me, ‘but people are losing their jobs’, when I point to the liberating potential of the credit crunch. That is just resentful whingeing, often done simply in order to make you appear to be a compassionate person to anyone who might be looking. No: don’t moan about things – change them. I’ve been exploring other ways of doing things for more than 20 years. We urgently need to reinvent work. Instead of going out into the streets and limply asking some unnamed, vague authority to give you a job, you should be getting out there and creating your own new ways of working and trading.

Maybe some people like their jobs. According to the Work Foundation, about a third of people actually enjoy theirs – or at least they say they do (ask them if they would rather get £25,000 a year for doing nothing and see what they say). Even if that figure were true, that still leaves two-thirds of us who are not happy in our jobs. We do them for the money.

Use your eyes: when you look at individual cases, rather than summoning up an abstract fear in your mind, people in actual fact feel liberated when they are made redundant. I can think of 10 friends and acquaintances who have been made redundant and all without exception are grabbing hold of the opportunity with open arms. Some are going travelling. Others are finally pursuing the projects that they used to dream about. 'I wish I’d done this 10 years ago,’ said one friend. I propose that we introduce a new term for the unemployed: job-free. Make the negative into a positive.

It won’t always be easy. The job-free have to stand on your own two feet. You have to be self-employed and earn your own crust, rather than just turning up every day and having someone else send you your monthly salary. You will have to learn about tax returns and you will have to be thrifty.

One comfort is that you will save a lot of money now you are job-free. It is not commonly realised that your job is actually your biggest annual cost. Jobs are very expensive. Take a £25,000 annual salary. Of this, £5,942.40 is immediately lost in tax and national insurance. Then there are the costs of working – the costs that you undergo in connection with your job.

These include commuting costs, clothing, drinks after work, sandwiches at lunchtime, coffees and snacks, all those impulse purchases to cheer yourself up… A very modest estimate would put these costs at £100 a week, or £5,000 a year. Then there is the cost of your annual holiday. The job-free are on holiday all the time, so you won’t need one of those. Again, I will put that at a modest £1,000 a year. So already, we have saved ourselves £12,000 year by not having a job. This means you will need to earn only around half of your previous salary in order to be equally well-off.

So if you have been sacked or made redundant you should rejoice. Life starts now. Let’s overthrow capitalism and establish some viable alternatives, but for heaven’s sake don’t agitate for jobs. The captains of industry will be chuckling into their claret when they see you doing that. The more desperate you are for a job, the easier it is for them to lower wages, worsen conditions and lengthen hours. Jobs are a mug’s game. So let’s work together for a job-free Britain!

Tom Hodgkinson is the editor of The Idler and author of How to be Free (Hamish Hamilton, £14.99)


More from this author