How Much Should We Earn?
|September 22, 2011||Posted by Jenny Ann Fraser under The Art of Kindness|
I write often about acceptance, and being in the moment.
Every day, I find that accepting the small things that string together the hours of my day, makes my life much less stressful, and much more pleasant.
Whatever happens, from an encounter with a difficult customer, to being given tasks that I really dislike, acceptance is key to maintaining peace.
But, I am not a person who will accept anything no matter what. When things are wrong, I feel it is my duty to speak up, even if doing so will not change things.
Generally, it is the big things that get me riled, and these are things that I wish more people would get riled about.
One issue that has plagued me most of my adult life, is the issue of wages.
What is a fair wage for work performed?
My answer to that question is that a fair wage is no-one who works, no matter how menial the job, should be paid less that the cost of basic living. If you work, you should at least be able to provide food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and education for your children. Period. Anything less than that is inhumane, and doesn’t benefit the rest of the world.
So now, we’re not really talking about me anymore as I am rich beyond imagination compared to most of the world. I am probably fairly well off compared to most that I pass every day in the street in the neighbourhood that I work in.
What worries me most though, is the fact that so many skilled workers barely earn enough, even in developed countries like ours. If we cannot pay these workers a “living wage” then how can we hope to solve the bigger issues of global poverty?
At 42, I am highly skilled, experienced and mature worker, yet, I wouldn’t qualify for a one-bedroom apartment in a poor area of town on my current wage, and with a less than 1% vacancy rate, I would probably be out of luck as any such apartment would go to a person with a higher income.
I live on about 25% less than the Provincial average. If I cannot do better in the future, I will have no hope of retiring. Ever. Should I become to old or get ill and no longer be able to work, I will become another welfare statistic living in Government housing. This is not the future I planned for when I worked my youth away so that I could grow and develop myself
I however, am extremely lucky. I know many who have it worse, and due to age, physical ability, or aptitudes, have little opportunity to make things better. I haven’t yet figured out how to do it, though I am bound and determined to succeed, so I don’t really have any answers for anyone else. I will not accept the outcome of failure as I don’t plan to end my life in any kind of poverty. But the really, why is it so hard?
What bothers me the most, is the fact that this situation of extremely low wages doesn’t seem to concern anyone who is not in that position. The common reaction to my complaint is often one of apathy.
Apparently, my situation is my fault since I didn’t go to University when I was young, or, if I did go to University like so many I know, I must have studied the wrong discipline and therefore I and all like me have earned my financial insecurity…
I truly don’t understand how anyone who works hard and has skills could be considered unworthy of earning a living?
I also don’t understand how those who are not in this position think it is perfectly fine that so many don’t earn fairly.
I have listened to the diatribe of those who worked hard to put themselves through school and and assume that anyone who does not have what they have didn’t work hard. I know that this is not at all true, but I also know that If I were these people, I would be worried about the number of impoverished retirees they will have to support with their tax dollars later in life.
An education is a privilege. It is a privilege of money, scholastic ability, and personal aptitudes. It is not only a privilege of choice. We can only make choices when we are aware that choices exist, which means we do not all have the same level playing field. If it were, everyone would study to be a professional, and we would be over-run with unemployed professionals. The more people there are who are capable of doing a job, the lower the wages are, so I would be in no hurry to see a world where everyone is educated in exactly the same way.
I wonder how it is, that we can devalue the labour of other human beings when we so depend on it.
Enjoy the theatre, Ballet, or other arts? Well, you’d have nothing to enjoy without the incredible hard work of the performers, artists,technicians, and all other staff from the ushers to the box-office workers who make it happen.
Do you think that the company who services your furnace charges too much? I would say that if my furnace were to break in the middle of the night I hope to God that I’m getting a highly skilled technician who is not worrying about feeding his children while he works on the gas-lines in my house.
I could go on and on.
Those who are inclined to work with their hands or be otherwise creative, are not lesser individuals. These are the people that are most needed to build the home you live in, the car you drive, the clothes that you wear. These are the people who serve your meal when you are too tired to cook, or just want a nice evening out. These are the people who work for transit services, drive taxis and provide means for you to get to where you need to go, should your car fail and without them, civilization would fail. Problem with your computer, smart phone or other technological device? Who do you call?
If a job exists at all, it exists for a reason and we should respect the people who fill those positions because they make our lives better. If you find the service you get is not up to par, consider how much that person may or may not be earning and ask yourself how motivated you would be if you had to work 12 hour days just to keep a modest roof over your head, or what calibre of employee a company can attract paying minimal wages.
As I wrote at the beginning of this post: I will speak up when something is wrong even if doing so will not change anything. The thing is, that I think it might.
It might make a difference if more people began to think about the inequities among us and at least, think more of those we share this planet with.
Maybe, we will evolve to a place where we are more concerned with the welfare of the world due to an understanding that it impacts the quality of our own lives. Then we might be more committed to supporting companies that provide fair wages and treat employees well than those who provide us with the cheapest services.
At the very least, maybe, we will begin to see each person we encounter as a human soul who simply by virtue of being alive has the right to the opportunity to provide for him or herself and those they love.