Riots and Unemployment in the UK.

Riots and Unemployment: A Possible Relationship?

Put very simply, is unemployment a possible cause of rioting, especially amongst the young?
As more of those arrested appear in front of a court, and reveal their occupation or lack of one, the number of rioters who are unemployed and their age may be revealed. Amongst the very first to be revealed is a 31 year old primary school teacher from Brixton. This goes against the idea that unemployment is the only explanation.

On the other hand there is much journalistic evidence that rioters are young, and from estates of high unemployment. So there are many types of rioter. But if you are young, and with little or no experience of employment; you will have little experience of both the discipline and rewards of employment. So you have to create your own discipline, and your own rewards. The organisation of the riot using technology shows more than organisation. It shows a coherent group acting together, that comes close to discipline. The rewards come from firstly excitement, and also the theft from shops.

As more details of court appearance are made public it will be very interesting to assess the percentage who are unemployed. This figure may be hard, or impossible, to get in the public domain. But would show the relative importance of unemployment.

None of this is to suggest that full employment will stop rioting. Indeed those in employment, and in very boring jobs, may well be attracted by the “buzz” of a riot. But it does suggest that employment, especially in jobs that produce goods and services of use to others, is a civilising process. You can see that what you do is of use to others. You have a connection to the wider society that rioters may lack.

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2 thoughts on “Riots and Unemployment in the UK.

  1. John Lea says:

    I seem to recall (as I’m of a certain age) that the Kerner Commission reporting on the US riots in Detroit 1967 found that the typical rioter was not necessarily unemployed but certainly outraged by police treatment of Afro-Americans.

    Relations between police and deprived youth are still a factor now I think. Most of the initiatives in ‘community policing’ in England over the last 25 years have been ‘top down’ and have not really connected with the young people who cause most of the trouble. A number of rioters talking to journalists mentioned police attitudes: disrespect, the grinding experience of stop and search much the same now as it was in the early 1980s.

    As to unemployment, I agree with your argument and would only add that the distinction between being unemployed and being in and out of rubbish jobs is increasingly blurred as social scientists like Loic Wacquant and Guy Standing have pointed out. ‘Employment’ at the bottom of the labour market no longer gives the ‘precariat’ much in the way of a ‘connection to wider society’

  2. “Amongst the very first to be revealed is a 31 year old primary school teacher from Brixton.”

    I believe he was a teaching assistant (not a teacher) on 12k a year and paying rent of 6k a year. Still an idiot of the first order of course and no amount of crying in court will stop him being sentenced.

    However is it as bad as the filthy rich members of the Bullingdon club? esteemed former members include David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson.

    They riot and destroy but daddy picks up the bill. Now they run the country, perhaps it is this level of entitlement that is the seed of the problem?

    “I don’t think an evening would have ended without a restaurant being trashed and being paid for in full, very often in cash. […] A night in the cells would be regarded as being par for a Buller man and so would debagging anyone who really attracted the irritation of the Buller men.” Andrew Gimson Boris Johnsons biographer on the bullingdon club.

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