You may have noticed recently that there is a bit of uproar at recent comments by Lord Freud (welfare minister for the conservatives) regarding the minimum wage and suggesting that perhaps some people ‘deserved’ more or less than others. A well respected friend blogged about the issue.
Whilst this blog is predominantly about travels and adventures and mostly cake, professionally I am very interested in social issues, especially around equality, or rather inequality. I enjoy asking questions and challenging assumptions. The purpose of these debate posts isn’t to give my opinion so much, but to share some of the questions the issues raise and to critically examine the world we live in (sorry inner teacher coming back out). And this irked me!
In response to Lord Freud’s comments, perhaps we need to consider what ‘successful’ and ‘effective’ in the work place actually looks like. How is it measured – and is the measure fair? The Equality Act 2010 was introduced to prevent discrimination and to ensure amongst other things that everybody was paid at a minimum rate, this is regardless of who they are. Lord Freud alluded to the idea that those with a disability cannot contribute to a job as well as others, and so should be paid less, this idea is ludicrous, or if it is the case that somebody with a disability is not as ‘effective’ at a minimum wage job then perhaps the issue is with the lack of appropriate job offers available to suit different skills and personal attributes.
Those with a disability are still horrendously under-represented in today’s employment market. If we lived in a world where everyone was paid fairly ie commensurate with the amount of time, skill and effort needed for a specific job then yes lets re-look at minimum wage. But we don’t. We need to challenge stereotypes and question inequality. Fundamentally suggesting that there are some groups of society who do not contribute as much and therefore do not deserve as much is worrying. Turning the issue on its head, lets ask the questions what skills, education and experience, and therefore hourly position is worthy of the minimum wage, how much work and what would you be willing to do for £6.50 an hour, would you be willing to work for less, and what makes you effective at a job.