Valuing the work that matters most

by Richard on December 15, 2009

Further to my post of earlier today, Dave Warnock points us to MAKE WEALTH HISTORY: Valuing the work that matters most

Income is one of the key indicators of value in our modern society – we pay people well to do things that we value highly, and pay them little for work that we consider less important. Cleaners and shop assistants are paid low wages, because in theory, they contribute little to the economy. Bankers and football players enjoy higher earnings because they add much more value to the economy overall.

This view has been challenged this week by a report from the new economics foundation. By adding up ’social returns on investment’, they have been able to generate the total contribution that various jobs make to society – not just in profit, but in environmental and social benefits.

As Dave suggests, not everyone is going to approve of the methodology. But it seems to me to be a valuable contribution to a very necessary debate. NEF’s report is well-worth looking at.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Kim 12.15.09 at 8:49 pm

I presume that, in utopia, there will still be a place for Simon Cowell. Oh, and the Beckhams.

2

Richard 12.15.09 at 10:24 pm

Am I detecting a note of cynicism, Kim?

3

J 12.17.09 at 4:40 am

“pay them little for work that we consider less important”

MWH has some odd ideas, but more to the point, people generally get paid slightly more than what it would cost to replace them; the value of the job they do is irrelevant. There’s some distortion of this in the realm of entertainment, but in many cases entertainers (I include pro athletes in that category) are more brands than workers.

I rarely agree with Kim, but the only critique I can think of here is he forgot to mention that everyone will have a pony too.

4

PamBG 12.17.09 at 1:33 pm

but more to the point, people generally get paid slightly more than what it would cost to replace them; the value of the job they do is irrelevant.

I would certainly not say that this has been the case in my working life. I think the most valuable jobs I’ve done have paid the least. And the job for which I got paid quite a lot was, I believe, a valuable job. But in social terms I don’t think it was worth anything like what I got paid for it. Are full-time stay at home mothers worthless to society? I don’t think so.

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