17 Jan 2010

Hospital cleaners are worth more than elite city bankers

Hospital cleaners are worth more to society than elite City bankers, according to new analysis from the New Economics Foundation (nef). This could be a bit of nonsense - or at least I thought that until I looking more closely - a very refreshing way to look at this issue which comes to conclusions that I am sure many agree - how for example can it be right that we entrust our most important 'resource' - the next generation - with some of the least well paid people in the country?

Photo: money pushed into logs for luck

The new report, A Bit Rich?, uses new quantification techniques to calculate the value created for society by a range of different professions. Here's what nef write: "For each, the authors measured the conventional economic returns, such as the number of jobs created, as well as key environmental impacts, including climate change effects, and social impacts, for example contribution to individual or community well-being. Weighing up the positive and negative economic, environmental and social impacts produced an overall result for each occupation. The results revealed that the more poorly paid jobs - hospital cleaners, recycling workers and childcare professionals - were more valuable to society than the highly paid jobs, high-earning City bankers, advertising executives and accountants helping the most wealthy individuals and companies avoid tax."

The research highlights the fact that, at the moment, salaries are a very poor indicator of the contribution a job makes to society and that some of the most valuable roles are the least well-paid. nef believes that we need a pay structure which recognises all aspects of value and rewards those jobs that create most benefit to society, rather than rewarding work which generates profit at the expense of society and the environment."

Many national papers picked up the story - see for example The Guardian here which picked out that the report challenged the notion that high pay did not matter as long as poverty was eradicated. The report showed how high pay is often generated by businesses that destroy other parts of the economy or fail to pay the full costs of their activities.

The report said tax accountants were the most destructive, laying waste to £47 of value for every £1 they created. Elite City bankers (earning £1m plus bonuses) destroy £7 of value for every £1 they create and advertising executives wreck £11 of value for every £1 they are paid. On the other hand, the report judged that waste-recycling workers generated £12 for every £1 spent on their wages. Childcare workers create between £7 and £9.50 of value for every £1 of pay and hospital cleaners create more than £10 in value for every £1 they receive in pay.

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