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Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,638 ratings  ·  178 reviews
A compelling and ground-breaking piece of narrative journalism that gets right to the heart of divided Britain and its dysfunctional jobs climate.

We all define ourselves by our profession - at least to some extent. But what if our job was demeaning, poorly paid, and tedious? Cracking open Britain's divisions - immigrant/British, North/South, urban/rural, working class/midd
Paperback, Main edition, 288 pages
Published March 1st 2018 by Atlantic Books
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 ·  1,638 ratings  ·  178 reviews

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Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I pay my cleaner £10 an hour at the same time as I pay my lawyer £570 an hour. Is my lawyer worth 57 times what my cleaner is worth? It must be to me or I would not pay it. That is the free market in action. James Bloodworth is aware of these discrepancies. He does not like them, but he is not proposing a solution. In his well considered book, Bloodworth examines what it is like to be on the bottom rung of the job market by working undercover in such jobs to experience them himself, and also to ...more
Maru Kun
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Guardian is publishing a series of anonymous reports from a worker inside an Amazon fulfillment center: Our new column from inside Amazon: 'They treat us as disposable'

A podcast interview with the author about this work can be found here, at Intelligence Squared.

I read this book because I wanted to know what it was like to be an Uber driver and, thanks to this honest and well written account of working in low wage Britain, I got my answer: not great, but not so bad - and certainly far better
Alistair North
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I work in the Employability Sector, and have done so for 15 years. Several employers ago, my Team had successfully placed ten of our customers as new employees with TK Maxx, a major clothing and housewares retailer in the UK. We were pretty surprised, not to mention confused when they came back to our office with news of their new job offers and that they had been employed under an agreement known as a 'Zero-Hour Contract'. None of us had known what such a thing might be, and were horrified to h ...more
Brian Clegg
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Rather like a modern version of Orwell's Road to Wigan Pier, Bloodworth's book describes six months 'undercover in low-wage Britain.' Bloodworth takes on jobs in an Amazon warehouse in Rugeley, as a care worker (sort of) in Blackpool, in a call centre in the South Wales Valleys and as an Uber driver in London.

His experiences provide valuable insights into the life that goes with these low wage jobs. The workers face two huge problems - not being paid enough to live on and oppressive working cond
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Hired will be praised as an unflinching look at modern Britain. That should give grave offence to modern Britain. Although the book is a documentary, it spreads out like an Hieronymus Bosch - except that Bloodworth’s figures are made of flesh and blood, and Hell is the bottom end of the British workforce. The book is his account of six months’ minimum wage work (often, in reality, lower) and what he did in the towns ‘that rarely interest governments or the media’.

We start in the Amazon warehouse
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
I was disappointed in this book unfortunately. Maybe I'm unfairly comparing it to Polly Toynbee's excellent book 'Hard Work: Life In Low Pay Britain' - she did the same thing as Bloodworth, just 15 years earlier.

What I missed in Bloodworth's book was the wider political perspective: how did this happen, who made it happen, and what do current parties want to do about it, if anything? I also found some of his comments/analyses slightly too biased and would
Charles Haywood
Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
James Bloodworth, an English sometime Trotskyite, has written a book which combines the television series "Undercover Boss" and George Orwell’s "Down and Out in Paris and London." He took jobs in a variety of low-wage, low-security occupations to get first-hand knowledge about what it is like today to be a member of the largely invisible British working class. Bloodworth’s resulting argument is that a pernicious marriage of portions of the political Left and Right has destroyed the dignity of th ...more
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommend
A well-researched, highly self-aware and accessible insight into the state of Britain’s in-work poverty (with a healthy examination of class too). I knew Amazon warehouses and zero-contract hours were a bad thing, but boy, was this an eye-opener into just how bad.


“The difference... between the man with money and the man without is simply this - the one thinks ‘how shall I use my life?’, the other ‘how shall I keep myself alive?’” - Edward Reardon

“The speedy efficiency which characte
Sharon Bakar

An important book - looking at low-paid, insecure work in the UK which seems to be part of the trend - not just in Britain but around the world. Bloodworth took jobs in an Amazon warehouse (sorry "fulfilment centre"), with care services assisting the elderly, in a call centre in Wales, and as an UBER driver in London so that he could experience at first hand the conditions he's writing about; and he talked to other workers in same and similar jobs, and ordinary folks living in the depressed t
Alex Givant
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting look in to British 'gig' economy, reminded me Down and Out in Paris and London and Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America. ...more
Joy Lamb
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Should be compulsory reading for all politicians.
Depressing to find that so little has changed since Polly Toynbee's earlier book on a similar subject.
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Of course I agree with the main message of this book. My beef, as identified in O’s review, is that it’s been said better, with more detail, more context, more specifics and more analysis previously. See Toynbee’s Hard Work in Low-pay Britain or Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed - which was a page turner. Hired was not a page turner. Bloodworth is more recent of course, and in that was more relevant. Overall, I found it relied too heavily on the reader’s pre-existing shared belief that the zero hour ...more
Aug 22, 2020 rated it liked it
An unflinching investigation of the exploitation of underpaid workers in the UK. This book is revealing and shocking yet slightly voyeuristic at times.

The book uncovers heartbreaking accounts from low-wage workers and each are a damning indictment of the industries Bloodworth explores. Although this book is insightful, I don’t think it is as powerful as other investigative books.
Apr 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Many years ago I read Hard Work: Life in Low-Pay Britain by Polly Toynbee and more recently Getting By: Estates, Class & Culture in Austerity Britain by Lisa McKenzie, and now having read James Bloodwith's Hired, I am saddened once more by the inequalities and social injustices that have become an accepted part of everyday life for so many people living in Britain. When I read Polly Toynbee all those years ago, I really didn't imagine that fifteen years later I would still be reading about how b ...more
Jake Goretzki
Mar 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Hardly what you’d call enjoyable, but this an important portrait of the bleak experience of zero hours and gig economy employment. The ‘undercover’, investigative dimension is perhaps a teeny bit of a red herring; I think interviewing people who worked at Amazon, B&M, Uber, etc might eventually yield the same portrait. Still, the lived, authentic personal experience adds another layer, especially given Bloodworth’s experiences of renting rooms and trying to budget. His points about bad diet and ...more
Laura May
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I found this a very worthwhile book. It's well-written, and beyond that, it did make me consider my privilege and biases (it is, after all, easy to write someone off as a 'chav' or a 'bogan'). It also left me disquieted - of course I'm aware of many of the problems mentioned by the author, and naturally you want to help change or redress them. But what can an individual actually *do* beside vote? Do we stop spending money with Amazon or uber? Are our marginal spending habits the problem? Do we f ...more
Sep 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

“Discrimination is frowned upon in theory but acquiesced in practice. Second-rate ‘unis’ are, if you like, the political elite’s condescension to meritocracy-the utopian idea that opportunity in life can bear no relation to the prosperity enjoyed by one’s parents.”

Having done my fair share of these sorts of jobs back in the day, I can well relate to his various experiences, the awful people who get drunk on petty power, the BS rhetoric, the disrespect, the exploitation, empty promises and of cou
Mar 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
It's all too easy to fail to look beyond the low price we pay for many goods and services and to forget (often wilfully) the true human cost enabled by a constant erosion in worker's rights and corporate responsibility. 'Hired' presents us with a valuable window into the ever-increasing world of the underpaid, underappreciated, and overworked in this First World Country of ours. It's also filled with nuggets of wisdom that cut to the heart of work and life in 21st century Britain, while skilfull ...more
Bloodworth took on four low-paid jobs: a picker in an Amazon warehouse (surrounded mostly by Eastern Europeans), a carer for the elderly, a call centre worker, and an Uber driver. He also writes about finding accommodation and how he budgeted his modest earnings. I think I would have enjoyed this as a long Guardian magazine sort of article, but it didn’t need to be a whole book. Undeniably eye-opening, though. “Around one in twenty people in Britain today live on the minimum wage. … Britain is o ...more
Emily Moon
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A brilliantly written book that informs, entertains and most importantly educates in a sophisticated, accessible and readable manner. It tackles such a dynamic portion of society and gives faces to hardships in a way that can only be a force for good. Essential reading for anyone living and partaking in our capitalist society.
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
I really respect what author done. Joining the low paying jobs and reporting on what does it mean to work there is a very helpful reporting. Forcing yourself to really experience the full life of people working in this job is an honorable undertaking. I would give 5/5 for that.

The problem is, that the author tries to also do some conclusions and a comentary on reasons why there are these jobs and what is to blame (evil corporates, bloodthirsty landlords ir capitalism).

These conclusions are ful
Michel Meijer
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Modern slavery in the United Kingdom. The writer investigates not only the current state of low-wage jobs at Amazone, caring instances, call centers and Uber, but also describes the deeper reasons why the situation is as is (closure of colleries in teh UK) and why the communities are disliking foreigners that do work there. The book gives a terryfying situation in a modern society like the UK, and I wonder how widespread this is in modern World.
Apr 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2019
The subject matter of this is really important - the realities of trying to get by on low wages in present day Britain, and the impact of the so-called ‘gig economy’. But though I admired what the writer was trying to do, this isn’t particularly well done. There’s a real lack of detail about both the jobs he did (I got the impression he’d barely spent any time in them) and the reasons for the current situation, and instead the text was padded out with too many generalities. It didn’t tell me muc ...more
Feb 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Hired is a mix that works well, it is a mix of the authors own experiences working at the frontline of low wage and precarious jobs, of interviews with workers in these industries, and of reports, stats and studies that lie behind the current political, corporate and labour market landscape. This results in something that is both informative and personal and also resulted in me a few times just wanting to take a few of the responsible parties and strip them of all their assets, privileges and po ...more
Carlos Martinez
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Important (and chilling) exposé of the working conditions suffered by at least a million people in Britian today. Casualisation, anti-trade union legislation, privatisation and deregulation have led to this absurd situation where people can be working 60+ hours per week and yet not even know if they'll be able to pay the rent. The author doesn't really offer solutions, but they're clear enough: resolute and united struggle for change. Unionisation of all workplaces; an end to the fiction of 'sel ...more
Kevin McDonagh
A journey deep into the cheerless world of low paid work. Curiosity might bring some here, but it ought to be read by all the benefactors of our Beehive society or anyone who might criticise those that fuel it. After all, we are what we eat.

Heres my favourite quote: “The fact that a growing number of English people are unwilling to be treated like animals by unscrupulous employers is often viewed as shameful when it really ought to be considered as a sign of progress. British workers have minim
Mar 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Apart from the slightly strained metaphors and similes, this is an important read. The particular labour conditions that make some services that we rely on possible, at the price that we expect, need to be investigated and known. James Bloodworth does a very good semi-anthropological assessment of work practices in the post-2008 UK, that shows some of the deep problems with having such a 'flexible labour market' - he also tells a pretty human story which often relates to the relative expectation ...more
Graham Clark
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
James Bloodworth goes undercover and takes some terrible jobs around the country, getting a first-hand account of the morally-bankrupt/libertarian zero-hours contracts world. I do not want people being treated like this when they get my Amazon order together. And obviously Uber are terrible terrible people but everyone knows that already, right?
Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A welcome exploration of what it means to be on the bottom of the economic ladder in contemporary Britain. Four stars because it stays with personal (the author leaves no doubt as to where he stands politically) anecdotes and statistics, but never pushes beyond that into questions of what to do about it.
Jun 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book does a fantastic job at outlining the systematic troubles faced in lower-income Britain - and setting out the complexity of the problem. I went away with the conclusion that rural areas are dying: there are no jobs there; but no solutions to the problem (luckily I am not a politician).

The preface does a good job at summarising the problem:

Hired is about more than just Amazon, though. It is about how we treat people who do the jobs the rest of us often aren’t prepared to do. These are j
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James Bloodworth is an English writer and the author of two books, The Myth of Meritocracy and Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain. His work has appeared in the Guardian, the Times, New York Review of Books, New Statesman and elsewhere. He is on Twitter as @J_Bloodworth.

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