Jan 11, 2010

Bankers and cleaners


So who is worth more to society: someone who cleans hospitals for a living or someone who runs a bank?

The answer to that question might seem subjective.  Someone flat on their back in a hospital room might have pretty strong opinions.

But Britain’s New Economics Forum (NEF) has produced some pretty thought provoking work on this subject.  In A Bit Rich: Calculating the real value to society of different professions, published last month, they find with respect to hospital cleaners:

For every £1 we pay them they generate over £10 in social value.  This is likely to be an underestimation, as the entire functioning of the hospital relies on them.

The NEF compares this to high paid London bankers who are some of the best paid people in the UK.  They estimate that senior partners in major finance houses make between £5 million and £10 million a year while portfolio managers and traders get by on £500,000 annually.  Given the economic crisis largely generated by bankers the NEF says:

Our analysis found that for every £1 in value created, £7 worth of value is destroyed by highly paid City bankers.

The report also looks at childcare workers, advertising executives, tax accountants and waste recycling workers.

Eilís Lawlor, Head of the Valuing What Matters team at NEF said:

This report is not about targeting individuals in highly paid jobs.Neither is it simply suggesting that people in low-paid jobs should be paid more.The point we are making is more fundamental – that there should be a relationship between what we are paid and the value our work generates for society.