In the North East of England where I live, there’s an almost romantic view of the ‘working class’. But who are they in 2016?
In the past, the working class were identifiable by their work. Typically employed in industry, manufacturing, heavy engineering and mining etc. With the demise of those industries in this country, it is far more difficult to identify who is working class.
Many people who consider themselves working class today, would be considered middle class by the historical working class. Home ownership, cars, holidays abroad, company pension schemes etc were very definitely not available to ye olde working classes. And it’s there I believe the definition of working class exists. It is no longer job oriented, but instead it’s consumer oriented.
The old fashioned working classes didn’t consume. They couldn’t afford to and the consumable items didn’t exist back then e.g. mobile phones, computers, tablets, plasma screen tv’s, X boxes (other games consoles are available). I believe the modern working classes retain that low consumerism mentality.
It’s a mentality that believes in not spending for spendings sake, and saving for the future. It’s a mentality that understands the simplistic nature of financial reality – that becoming wealthy requires hard work. Not hard work just in the industrial sense, but hard work in the decisions taken to resist the acquisition of more and more crap. It’s an almost genetic financial sensibility.
The modern working class are low borrowers. People who would be horrified by the thought of £10k on credit cards or a £50k student loan.
Hard work, low consumerism, and saving for the future; these are the traits that used to define the working class, and they still do today.
And now for the controversial point: I couldn’t write about any definition of a working class without mentioning ‘work’. To be working class you have to work (or at least believe in the concept). Those who are happy to live on state benefits are not working class because they don’t work. (I exclude from this list those who are unable to work due to a debilitating illness or are above retirement age).
Simply being poor, is not a definition of working class. Indeed, with a low debt, low consumer, good saver mentality, the modern working class are just as likely to be relatively wealthy.
I work 79+ hours per week. I have no personal debt. I invest 60% of what I earn. I am working class.