During the COVID-19 lockdown, only essential workers were being allowed to come out to work. And who made up the bulk of those workers – grocery workers, bank tellers, garbage collectors, and other front-line staff. These workers are some of the lowest-paid persons in the organisation that they work, if not in the economy.
There is a contradiction here. If these workers are so vital that they were deemed essential, then why aren’t they paid as such. Or is it that we want to call them “essential” but what we mean is that they’re “expendable”?
With growing inequality, people have been questioning the high pay of many people, and rightly so. I often wonder if the high compensation of many CxOs and other senior managers are warranted.
This is why, more and more, I’m starting to come around to the concept of a Universal Basic Income (UBI). UBI is where the government provides a guaranteed minimum income to all citizens without any strings attached. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it probably has the best overall outcome of the wellbeing of the population.
Now, this wouldn’t shift the question of value, but it would change people’s thinking about jobs and the salaries they’re willing to take for them. If people don’t need a job to survive, then they would be more willing to avoid a job unless there are more significant incentives to take it.
Now UBI is more complicated than that, and I am not in a position to discuss at this time. But I do believe we need to relook our entire economic system and the values system that embodies it.