‘Key’ Workers

Countries’ reactions to the Covid-19 virus has been varied, many leaning on different scientific theory or knowledge; and the results of each approach remains to be seen.  Yet despite the multitude of responses, there is one constant: the roles and functions of society which are considered ‘key’ or crucial during such a time of pandemic.  The British government has even published a list of jobs which they consider to represent those workers which are key to the country surviving the current pandemic which includes (but is not limited to):

  • Health and Social Care
  • Education and Childcare
  • Key Public Services
  • Local and National Government
  • Food
  • Transport
  • Utility Workers and
  • Public Security

The capitalist ethos would have us believe that the market decides the value of everything – and that items of high value are  priced more highly than those of less value.  Seeing as we live in a capitalist economy then, it seems only fair to evaluate the contributions of individuals based upon their monetary value to society – or what they earn…

According to the UK Office of National Statistics, the average annual salary for 2019 was just over £30,000 (the average salary for Full-Time employees was just over £37,000 and for Part-Time that figure drops to just over £12,000).  That is to say, that the value of an average working member of society in around £30,000.  So how much do these ‘Key’ members of society earn?  Surely it must be a lot more…

There are too many individual jobs to go through, however according to government figures can be generalised as:

  • Hospital Doctors can expect a salary of £25-75,000 whilst Nurses and Paramedics only £25-38,000
  • Nursery Workers can expect £14-24,000, and Early Learning Teachers between £18-30,000 – whilst Secondary school teachers earn between £24-40,000
  • Care Workers can expect between £12,500-25,000
  • Food Factory workers and Supermarket staff can earn between £12-20,000
  • Bus or Coach drivers can expect to earn between £15-20,000; whilst train drivers between £25-60000
  • Electricians , Plumbers and Gas Pipe Layers can expect between £15-40,000
  • Firefighters can expect between £25-38000 and Police £21-41,000

As can be seen, with the exception of doctors and train drivers – many of these ‘Key’ members of society can expect to earn substantially less than the average national wage throughout their entire careers.

So if these ‘key’ members of society are not earning above the average, who is?  The salary of a fully qualified and experienced Band 5 Nurse in the National Health Service (NHS) is £30,600 – which roughly equates to the average WEEKLY wage of a footballer in the English Premier League.  This is an extreme example perhaps, yet a clear one.  According to market principles, a footballer is a more highly valued member of society that a doctor.  (Just don’t ask a footballer to help you get through a global viral pandemic!)

In this present crisis, many countries have requested that non-essential people either stay home or work from home (where this is possible).  Schools are closing, shops other than supermarkets are closing and the streets are empty of all but essential travel.  In the UK, the government has recently ordering the closure of schools, but has indicated that they will remain open for those ‘Key’ members of society that have no choice but to send their children to school because they must continue to work – and cannot do so from home.  So whilst the many stay at home – some paid and some not, there are a few that are asked to put themselves in harm’s way for the good of the rest.  Society therefore does recognise (at least in this regard) the importance of these individuals, yet not to the extent that it wishes to ensure that this appreciation is shown monetarily…  and yet in all current-day societies, money is the only mechanism in place to assign and recognise the value of anything.

How then, can (any) government request that such people be considered ‘Key’ to society, and yet refuse to ensure that they are remunerated as ‘Key’.  When it comes to the crunch – these key (and they are key) members of society are left to struggle through life on less than the average wage.  Any government which espouses the dictum that the market determines value surely cannot then determine an alternative measurement of value unless they are prepared to revisit the system as a whole.  If a government were to remain true to the values of capitalism a crisis such as we are seeing now should result in a vast increase in the financial consideration given to these ‘Key’ members of society, and a commensurate reduction in financial consideration given to everyone else.  Allowing a doctor to send their child to school just doesn’t fucking cut it!  The UK government has even said that it is willing to pay employers 80% of the wages of their staff (up to £2,500) throughout this crisis – which basically means that non-key members of society can sit around and do nothing for their average annual wage, whilst the key members of society (in some cases) earn less and still have to work!!

Thankfully, these members of society are helping, they are continuing to put themselves in harm’s way to help everyone – regardless of the way in which society rewards them. Perhaps this can serve as a trigger to realising that capitalism is not a system which is designed to further humankind – that we cannot measure an individual’s worth in monetary terms.

Failing this, (at let’s face it – it is unlikely) if we are too scared or too unwilling to try to change this deeply unequal society, then at least we can find a way to be even the scales ever-so little by assigning value according to criteria other than solely how much money a person can generate.

Or at least stop being so dishonest about things… carry on paying ‘Key’ members of society peanuts, but then don’t expect them to help you out when the shit hits the fan!!

This is an opportunity for the world to end the facade that money equals worth, and hence value to society, and to find a better goal for humankind.


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