“What You Are Worth”

An article in Work in Progress, the blog of the American Sociological Association today asks “Are you paid what you are worth?”

It uses the example of London dog walkers, who make substantially more than the national average income, to argue that “…the relationship between jobs and pay is now governed by a new principle. The old days in which your pay was linked to the number of hours you clocked up, the skill required and the societal worth of the job are long over. Other factors play a bigger role in determining how much you are rewarded today. This is why we live in a world where the task of walking a millionaire’s dog through Hyde Park is considered more valuable than an NHS nurse…”

I wonder, however, when this golden era was supposed to be when income was a direct measure of the societal value we placed on an occupation. Does the fact that we pay sports stars more than firefighters really mean we “value” them more?

That people who serve the needs of the rich make more money than those who serve the rest of us– who are not rich– is hardly surprising. They have more money to throw around. Rather than being a new development, it seems as though it is a return to a very old tradition when the world was made up mostly of peasants and a few lucky souls survived quite well by serving the royalty. In the Downton Abbey era a lady’s maid or valet, by helping the elite dress themselves, could earn about what a village teacher would each year.

The mid-century experiment with a strong middle class could be the aberration. This is not a particularly comforting thought for the non-wealthy among us, of course.

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