Not in a house, not with a mouse

Do you have a real job? Are you sure? Well, the odds are your local council doesn’t think so.

In the bizarre parallel universe that is local policy, economic reality is suspended and vast sectors of the labour market are dismissed at a stroke. It’s as if the 20th Century had never happened, let alone the 21st.

Here’s how it goes:

Say you want to build some houses (or create a new community as it’s now called). Well local policy says you can’t create an “unsustainable” dormitory town without local jobs. That’s bad news for suburban commuters. So you want to enjoy a detached house and garden, then hop on a train into town to work? Consider your career crossed-off the list of jobs that “count”.

Well what kind of jobs shall we create then? We’ll need some shops for sure – everyone needs bread and milk. But hang on, retail jobs don’t count. Try building shops on land the council has designated for “employment” and you’ll quickly find that retail employment isn’t, well, employment. Sorry, that’s three million more of us off the list of real jobs.

Never mind, our new community will have lots of other jobs in it – teachers in the new school, doctors in the new surgery. Hang on a minute though, these are public sector jobs, nothing to do with the development , sorry doesn’t count. That’s another six million of us crossed off.

So what about the people who actually build this new development? That sounds like real, hard work. Well no, this doesn’t count because construction is “temporary”. Which of course it is, but tell that to those who make a full-time career of these short construction contracts. No matter, the two million of us working in construction still don’t count.

Ah, but what about the three million (and growing) who work at, or from home. Our new community will demand a most diverse range of services – childminders, plumbers, gardeners, cleaners, electricians, interior designers, taxi-drivers… And increasingly it will also include professional homeworkers too – accountants, lawyers, consultants, in fact anyone who spends part of their working week at home on their laptop. But bad luck, you still don’t count, you’re not using “employment floorspace” so you simply can’t be employed. It’s a case of “not in a house, not with a mouse” as far as local policy is concerned.

So who’s still left? Any of you? If you walk to work in a factory round the corner, then congratulations, you have a real job! The rest of you, go home in shame.


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