Sunday, December 05, 2010

Staying afloat and doing well

There is no good reason why people who are willing to work shouldn’t be able to support themselves and their families and live comfortably. But for some reason the way things are set up make this impossible for many and extremely difficult form the majority.

The fitness instructor in this story made me think. There he is doing a full time job – probably with plenty of overtime but at the rate he is paid there is no way he’s ever, get me, EVER going to make enough to do more that struggle. Now they have two small kids. Childcare costs a fortune so his wife can’t work because her salary would cancel out the childcare. I suspect this couple are not well qualified and to become so would take aptitude, time and money which I suspect they have little of. So the best that can happen to them is for the wife to be able to work once the kids are older, which could be years, and for nothing to go amiss in the intervening years, such as job loss or illness.

Firstly, the minimum wage needs to be something people can really live on. Secondly a proper market rate needs to be established for a whole range of jobs – why is a fitness instructor being paid so little – it takes some knowledge and skill so surely he should be paid more than six quid an hour? Thirdly there needs to be a much more intelligent attitude towards childcare. In Jamaica where I used to live, many businesses had nurseries on site or ran one affiliated to them and perhaps a group of other companies. Parents paid a lower rate and the businesses benefited from employees who were secure in the knowledge their kids were properly being taken care of. I suspect our love for bureaucracy at the expense for the welfare of our kids prevents this from happening here. Paying for childcare should not cancel out a salary.

Lastly we need to encourage aspiration and laud intelligence and achievement instead of making fun of people who do well. Also people need to become entrepreneurial– create our own jobs. We cannot function well as a nation with low achievement and poor educational results that trap people into a life of low paid jobs. It’s a fact that the more qualified you are and the batter able to solve problems and form good relationships, the better job you can get. Until we get this, there will continue to be many working poor like the family mentioned above. Trust me on this, the difference between this family and ones I am familiar with are £800 per month earning power and £3,500 per month. Heck, on half of £3,500 a household could afford for the mother not to work. How do you get to earn that kind of cash and much more? With qualifications and problem solving abilities that businesses cannot do without. Those of us in positions where we can earn a lot are somewhat able to because of the dearth of qualified people. Take a profession I am familiar with – bid managers for instance, there are so few people that can do it well, the salaries offered are in the region of £40k and up plus bonuses and companies scramble to hire the few people available - for the most part. If there was a larger pool of qualified people the salaries might be lower (but I doubt it because of the nature of the work). Instead there are millions earning less than half of this. With prices and taxes in the UK the way they are and with further cuts things look bleak for the unskilled and low qualified. If you are in this position I advise you to do some heavy research – find out what professions you can get into (without a degree) that are in short supply and can earn you a wage upon which you and your family can be comfortable. These professions DO exist. And encourage your kids to do extremely well at school – you need them doing so well they can get scholarships people. It’s the only way out of this.