The Societal Value of Various Jobs

The New Economics Foundation has released a report comparing various jobs in terms of the societal value they destroy or generate (pdf).

The report was produced to start “a fundamental rethink of how the value of work is recognised and rewarded”—specifically by creating a relationship between jobs that create a benefit for society and the environment and their compensation.

The BBC looks at the report and has produced a summary of the findings:

  • Waste workers: Create £12 of value for every £1 they are paid.
  • Hospital cleaners: Create over £10 of value for every £1 they are paid.
  • Childcare workers: Create £9.50 worth of benefits for every £1 they are paid.
  • City bankers: Destroy £7 of value for every £1 they generate.
  • Senior advertising executives: Destroy £11 of value for every £1 they generate.
  • Tax accountants: Destroy £47 for every £1 generated.

In addition to these figures:

  • Advertising executives “create stress, […] dissatisfaction and misery, and encourage over-consumption, […] high spending and indebtedness. [They also] create insatiable aspirations, fuelling feelings of dissatisfaction, inadequacy and stress.”
  • Waste workers “promote recycling”.
  • Childcare workers “create net wealth to the country [by releasing] earnings potential by allowing parents to continue working”.

I can’t help feeling that these results are largely swayed by the public opinion* and that the six jobs compared by NEF were chosen due to their potential for controversy (read: publicity) and incorrect interpretation.

However I did like the ten myths of pay and value (further information in the report):

  1. The City of London is essential for the UK economy.
  2. Low paid jobs create a ladder for people to work their way up — opportunities to advance are open to all.
  3. Pay differentials don’t matter, so long as we eradicate poverty.
  4. We need to pay high salaries to attract and retain talent in the UK.
  5. Workers in highly paid jobs work harder.
  6. The private sector is more efficient than the public sector.
  7. If we tax the rich, they will take their money and run.
  8. The rich contribute more to society.
  9. Some jobs are more satisfying, so they require less pay.
  10. Pay always rewards underlying profitability.

* I imagine the results would have been quite different a few years ago when we were in the midst of a bull market and MRSA infection rates were high and prominent in the news.