You Have The Right To Not Work

The final labor right is the right to not labor


Parenting, art — we call the most important things ‘not work’

You have the right to not work. Sounds crazy, but what are you doing right now? Not working, are you? That’s fine. This is your right.

You are not your job. You are not defined by your value to the capitalist system. Yes you have rights as a worker, but the most important right — the one we are denied — is the right to not work at all.

What is not work?

Not work is the most important work of all. Not work is raising children. Not work is caring for elders. Not work is making art. Not work is not destroying the Earth.

What is ‘unskilled’ work?

‘Unskilled’ work is growing food, cleaning bedpans. Building homes. This is in fact highly skilled work, you try doing it. During the pandemic we call this essential work, but we certainly don’t treat the workers that way. Are you beginning to see that we have our priorities wrong?

What are labor rights?

Well, what is labor? We value the literal labor of our own mothers as nothing. All the mother’s milk in the world counts for not a cent of GDP, while formula companies are worth billions. We’re obviously missing something.

We’re missing not work.

The Right To Not Work

The right to not work is not a new right. For the vast majority of human existence, hunter-gatherers had plenty of leisure time (and much healthier skeletons). Rich people have this right today. What do you think the division between capital and labor is? Capitalists by definition do not labor.

Let me give you my example. I work — work I love — but I do not have to work to eat. My wife has investments and that money ‘works’ for us. Rich people already have Universal Basic Income. It’s called compound interest. We get paid to not work, just because we already have money.

For the poor, however, we withhold this right. There is the idea that the poor need to be motivated by fear of starvation or disease or…



Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at, or just email me at