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Working in the Context of AusterityChallenges and Struggles$
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Donna Baines and Ian Cunningham

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781529208672

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781529208672.001.0001

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Understanding Austerity: Its Reach and Presence in the Changing Context of Work and Employment

Understanding Austerity: Its Reach and Presence in the Changing Context of Work and Employment

(p.3) 1 Understanding Austerity: Its Reach and Presence in the Changing Context of Work and Employment
Working in the Context of Austerity

Donna Baines

Ian Cunningham

Policy Press

This introductory chapter sketches out some of the major debates concerning austerity, neoliberalism, and work. Austerity is viewed as a set of interwoven policies aimed at reducing public debt and expenditure, increasing consumer taxes and purportedly stimulating economic wellbeing through corporate tax cuts and support for private business. Since the 1970s, austerity policies have been closely associated with neoliberalism, a set of policies and processes that valorize the private-market as the solution to all social and economic problems and seek to reduce or eliminate social entitlements and public provision. Evidence confirms that austerity has widened existing inequalities based on the intersecting social relations of class, gender, and race. Indeed, austerity has been characterized as a highly gendered and racialized phenomenon, with public sector retrenchment producing substantial job losses in relatively better paid and more secure female-majority, race-friendly public sector jobs, such as social care, healthcare, education, and general services. Resistance in the era of austerity can be found among all groups of workers, although the adaptability and ideological dominance of late neoliberalism frequently seems to circumvent or defuse the impacts of strategies undertaken to improve the lives and conditions of working people.

Keywords:   austerity, neoliberalism, consumer taxes, economic wellbeing, austerity policies, private-market, inequalities, job losses, public sector jobs, workers

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