Barely a day passes without a politician or pundit worrying over the future of work. It’s a conversation that tends to focus on the future – the rise of the robots and the growth of the gig economy – rather than the current plight of workers in low-quality, low-paid and precarious jobs. And the discussion rarely stretches beyond the economic. But work is about much more than wages, which means that when work – or good work – deserts a town, so too does its sense of purpose; its sense of pride.
In this UnHerd audio documentary, James Bloodworth travels to Rugeley, in the British Midlands. The old industrial town, once home to the Lea Hall Colliery and its mining community, is now home to a vast Amazon distribution centre, offering poorly paid and insecure work to a mostly migrant workforce.
Rugeley’s story is one repeated in post-industrial towns across the West, and working-class men, angry at the disappearance of what they saw as meaningful work, are struggling with a profound loss of identity.
With contributions from local residents, as well as politicians and experts, James explores the plight of forgotten towns and considers how to renew them.