Do you know what powers our economy? Order a meal from a well-known restaurant on Deliveroo, and you’d assume your dinner was being cooked on their premises. Wrong. One of the 70 or so dark kitchens across Britain is likely to have made it.
Based on industrial sites and rented from Deliveroo by the restaurant, these are cramped metal boxes. These windowless kitchens are the dark satanic mills of the modern era. And as with Amazon’s distribution centres, they’re staffed by people working like moles. They are often on night shifts with little personal contact and at unsustainable speeds for impossibly low wages. And these help to sustain our broken economy.
Although, at least Amazon announced that it was hiking its minimum wage for all US employees to $15 an hour. We’ll have to wait and see whether this really does turn out to be the start of something bigger, or even whether it proves that much of a boon for Amazon workers. The company, after all, relies heavily on people who aren’t technically employees. After all, many employed by contractors and it is automating ever more parts of its business.
What’s more, the company’s vast market power in today’s economy remains a negative influence on wage growth. Still, by raising its minimum wage to $15, it did the right thing; if not necessarily for the right reasons. America’s economy and its tight job market has forced many firms to start offering higher pay. And Amazon has come under particular political pressure lately over its working conditions.
Economy and labour costs
Getting back to Deliveroo, its frantic efficiency and low labour costs could bring about the end of home cooking. The online food-delivery market is forecast to grow tenfold by 2030. But it’s the privations endured by the growing number of people working in this shadowy world that should most concern us. A major employment survey published last week showed a huge increase in the number of people who feel they’ve little or no discretion over how they do their job.
This is no way to run an economy — let alone a society.