What’s The State Of Pay?

Posted: November 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

Are you being paid enough? Ask anyone that question and I doubt many people will say “Oh too much, it’s a pain trying to give it all away!” Instead, most people will bemoan their pittance or concede that they could get by quite happily but for the ever-rising rent, inflation and sundry expenses.

Money is in reality simply a token for what other people think our time is worth. If you work in a shop or making things then your time is probably judged to be worth less than the owner of the shop the things you produce are sold through.

When Arkwright invented the water frame he intended it to free up the time of workers so that they could enjoy an increased quality of life. Instead, of course, mill owners built bigger factories to house more frames and employed people to keep them running longer than ever. Later, in the 1960s it was believed that manufacturing was so advanced that again, people would work for six hours a day, the rest of their time would be filled with literature, art and other muses.

Of course that didn’t happen. We entered a consumer credit economy where we worked longer hours for stagnant salaries so we could buy things we didn’t really need that wouldn’t last more than a couple of years. We’re slaves to the throw-away culture. When’s the last time you fixed something? Most of us just throw things away when they stop working properly rather than even have a go at mending them. There has of late though been an increasing trend to repair faulty items, apply visible mends to clothes and accessories. Make it and Mend is becoming the latest incarnation of customising and accessorising.

The street where I live has an extremely cosmopolitan and diverse population, one end has bespoke hotels and guest houses, the other, what appears to be a bail or homeless hostel and in the middle, small unfurnished flats like mine. Because the flats are unfurnished residents pay a fee if they leave anything behind, meaning that there are regularly beds, sofas and tables often of better quality than the things I own left out on the street to be taken away by the dustmen. (before you ask, I live at the top of a narrow staircase.) We call these items ‘street treasure’. The chest of drawers I have, the huge gilt mirror and VHS player, turns out I did need one after all, were all plundered from the streets in my locale. It’s become so widespread to take things you find home that people label the items they pitch as working or not working.

Freecycling is increasing in popularity, not only for large items that are difficult or expensive to dispose of but for things that people might simply want, like bedding plants, magazines and text books.

It wasn’t so long ago that supermarkets would pour bleach or detergent over the food in their bins to stop Freegans from taking the leftover, edible food they were sending to landfill or having them arrested for theft if they were caught sorting through the rubbish. Now, with austerity continuing to bite and even working families finding themselves so impoverished they rely on foodbanks, supermarkets are finally recognising their social responsibilities and giving food that’s past its use-by date and would otherwise be used as fuel or buried to organisations who work to help the hungry.

On a more global scale, we’re given the line that the world is barely able to support the human population, however, the real problem isn’t with production, it lies with distribution. When most of North America and Europe is obese and more than a third of the food produced is thrown away it’s clear that the scarcity of food isn’t an issue, it’s the will to provide food top the regions of the world that suffer from a lack of infrastructure, climate or war where food can’t currently be produced sufficiently. India is a particularly glaring example of a failing distribution system. It demands its right to burn more coal so that it can catch up with other powerful economies and yet it already has the highest proportion of billionaires in the world. It is a nuclear power and yet it still receives international aid from the UK because of the number of people living in poverty within its boarder. There can’t be many nations that have a space programme, nuclear power, a film industry that’s bigger than Hollywood that still need handouts from the international community.

That’s just one example. There are many countries which suffer from extremes of wealth and poverty, and the difference is getting worse in all industrialised countries, yet, in those with the smallest gap, most notably Scandinavian nations, the difference is less pronounced and the population report being happier. Indeed, on the international happiness index, it has been found that where the gap is smaller the population are more satisfied with their quality of life while those that show a greater difference are less happy. And that unhappiness isn’t directly linked to the poorest in those societies. The rich and the poor are equally miserable in an unequal community.

So, what’s the solution?

 

Increasing the minimum wage is the obvious place to start. Naysayers object as they claim it would be too expensive to implement, however, in every case where the minimum wage has increased employee happiness, health and outlook has improved while also improving the economy. Happy people with more money enjoy spending it. And who could object to that?

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