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Hard Work: Life in Low-pay Britain Paperback – 14 Jan 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; First Edition - Paperback edition (14 Jan. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1902488512
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747564157
  • ASIN: 0747564159
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 112,540 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"Not only should everybody with any conscience read it; it should be the manifesto for a third Labour term." -- Independent on Sunday 16th February

About the Author

Polly Toynbee is a Guardian columnist and broadcaster and was formerly the BBC?s social affairs editor. Previous books include Did Things Get Better? An Audit of the Labour Government (with David Walker), Hospital, Lost Children, The Way We live Now and A Working Life. She has won the National Press Awards and What the Papers Say columnist of the year. She lives in Lambeth and has four children.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D. M. Purkiss VINE VOICE on 18 Nov. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a well-intentioned book, and many of the points it makes are good, even vital, and yet I found the narrative voice so irritating that I often threw it across the room.

Toynbee comes across as utterly spoiled and privileged, and terribly, patronisingly sorry for everyone who can't windowshop on Kings Road because they know they can't afford to buy, and blithely unaware that this 'exclusion' applies to four-fifths of the nation.
Her norm is only too clearly the top of the middle class, people earning 100k plus with houses in Leafy London that they bought more than ten years ago. It never really strikes her that this First World Norm can't EVER be extended to everyone. There will NEVER be enough money for that.

Her impassioned plea for care workers to be better paid is moving and valid, but it's in part based on the idea that caring for incontinent old people is absolutely disgusting and depressing; at one point she comes very close to implying that they are the problem, and to longing for one of them to die, even though the individual seems quite contented in though demented. Doubtless they too have no reason to live as nobody is taking them along Kings Road or to Starbucks.

I actually ended up feeling very sorry for the people who had to work with Toynbee. They must have had it very tough. As the Great God Jarvis Cocker says, everybody hates a tourist.

That said, it's good to see someone at least trying to think about what 'job creation' at the bottom really means for those who have to do the jobs, and even better to see someone questioning what privatisation really means in care homes and the NHS.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Damaskcat HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 April 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author was asked to live in poverty for the period of Lent. I agree the situation was artificial and in some ways she probably made it harder for herself by starting off the experiment with less than the majority of people would start off with. She of course could not claim Job Seekers' Allowance because she was not unemployed but she did make an effort to find out what she would have been entitled to if she really had nowhere to live and no furniture. She established what she would have to do to get a loan from the Social Fund in an interesting interview with a member of staff from the Department for Work and Pensions which showed how you really have to know the rules in order to get what you're entitled to.

She then approached a charity which provided furniture at rock bottom prices. I thought her visit to the charity was interesting as it showed the difference between what she considered essential and the items which are actually essential. I patted myself on the back that I would have had more money left over from the loan she had theoretically received. The author having furnished her flat then had to find herself a job as soon as possible knowing she had little money in reserve and would have to give up receiving benefit long before she was paid for her first week's work. This to me highlighted a major problem with the low paid - that gap between stopping benefit and being paid for your work. People doing the jobs at the bottom of the scale will usually not have savings to tide them over such a gap and bills have to be paid.

I felt her comments about spending more than she would earn for a week at the hairdressers or on a meal out served to point up the difference between the middle class and the poor rather than being patronising.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Lincs Reader TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 6 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
In 'Hard Work', Polly Toynbee a middle-class Guardian journalist takes up the challenge thrown to her to live life as one of the many 'working poor'. She adopts the lifestyle of an ordinary, middle-aged woman from a run-down council estate in East London.

Polly doesnt find it difficult to get employment, but the jobs are thankless, jobs that few people will lower themselves to do and the wages are so low that she is in debt from day one. Even getting to interviews, getting to work, supplying herself with a decent pair of work shoes puts into debt. Many jobs pay less than the minimum wage, and of course the banks wont touch her - but the many loan sharks operating on the estate are glad to loan her money - at hugely inflated interest rates. All of the jobs, without fail are hard work, dirty, boring and often dangerous. Polly is offered no training, no benefits, no job security.

This book highlights many many problems with today's society - although written in 2002, I am sure that most of these problems still exist - if not more. Our Government seem obsessed with getting people into work and training, yet the Government has contracted out most of it's public services, for example, hospital portering, public sector cleaners and care givers. By outsourcing this work they have given over this very important work to mainly uncaring employers who are only interested in making as much money as possible and not interested in the people that carry out the work for them - these workers that are being exploited day after day are mainly women, and mainly mothers.
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