Wednesday, August 08, 2007

work, pay

What would be the sorted ordering of the following professions based on monthly earnings---

a) Software Engineer
b) Janitor
c) Teacher
d) Cobbler
e) Office Clerk
f) Hand cart puller
g) Construction worker

and what are the reasons for such an ordering?

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Reason is simple multiplication factor which is 40 (it used to be 50 earlier).

Not really sure whether the job of most of the Indian Software Engineers/Call center professionals is any better than a office clerk or a hand cart puller.

Puru said...

anon, what do you multiply 40 with? did not get that.

Anonymous said...

I was talking about dollar to rupee conversion :-)

Puru said...

anon, oh ok the dollar conversion.
But what would the ordering be?

Anonymous said...

a) Software Engineer
c) Teacher
e) Office Clerk

One big chunk: Janitor, Cobbler, Hand cart puller, Construction worker (who cares to order them?)

a dark ally said...

What is the purpose of ordering based on earnings? I would guess the figures are readily available from some government source; probably different (somewhat) in different countries?

I guess many supposedly white-collar workers (a, c, d) might be surprised to learn that historically blue-collar workers (b, g) might be paid as much or more! Office clerks (e) - depending on what kind of office - may even find themselves at the earnings level of a hand cart puller (f).

Am I showing my biases or what? :-)

Puru said...

a dark ally, ---
"I guess many supposedly white-collar workers (a, c, d) might be surprised to learn that historically blue-collar workers (b, g) might be paid as much or more!"

did you mean a,c,e ? or maybe people who mend shoes earn a lot more in the US.

my ordering would be (a), (c,e) & (b,d,f,g).

Am interested in exploring why this ordering, especially as you mention historically this was not the case? Why suddenly the value of physical work is no longer the same as other "blue-collared" professions. Isn't everyone's job more or less as essential as the others?

Infact, in terms of immediate tangible outcomes, the output of physical work done by b,d,f,g etc is immediately tangible and on which other professions indirectly count on. A janitor keeps a place clean, would it be a good working place for others without his efforts? and then what determines the skewed value for his work.

Anonymous said...

don't we have to account the skill factor here? a janitor's job can be performed by pretty much anybody, but a software engineer needs highly specialized skills that requires years of training and experience.
-ramesh

Puru said...

ramesh,
the factor you mention "skill" itself can be very subjective ...
e.g., there was some painting work going in our bldg. and the workers would raise a scaffolding only using bamboos sticks and ropes. Climb them as high as the 5th floor without any support and be in positions that normally one be would be scared even with support. Isn't that "skill" that is required to do such job ... one which I presume also needs practice and thoroughness ... and i am sure all types of physical jobs need "skill" ... cleaning a building thoroughly within a specified of time can be a skill. Pulling a loaded hand cart in traffic, without getting a scratch on the cupboard you just ordered , isn't that also skill? A construction worker setting the tiles/bricks of your house correctly, isn't that skill?

The bigger question i think is, why do we rate physical labor so low? ... even if when it plays such an important role.

Puru said...

also, is "skill" the only factor? what about some "vitality" measure, which tries to capture importance ... shouldn't that also be an important factor. The complex questions of course are what is such a measure, who decides it, how to use it etc. But do we explicitly/implicitly think of such a possible measure or other relevant measures as factors or no? (especially with regards to physical work)

tejal said...

skilled and unskilled labour classification is highy erroneous in many cases....
agriculture, which is actually a job requiring loads of skill becuase there are just too many variables in play - weather, land, water, market..
is classified as "unskilled" in India.

Anonymous said...

P, why are you against software engg? pay your cleaning lady half your salary, happy? ;)
T do you mean to say agricultural workers know multivariate analysis ? or just that its a high risk job?
then again how does the classification matter if market is going to decide the income?

there could be an argument that the school training and logical reasoning required for software engg could be learnt by anyone privileged enough and because of lack such opportunity some people live life cleaning/building houses.. but you seem to have missed the point

why do we rate physical labor so low?
I don’t know what is the point in pondering over such question; we could construct hundreds of (bleeding heart) questions without answers

Anonymous said...

Puruman and Tejal,

I would personally value mental skill more than physical skill anyday, for it is the intellect that drives progress. Physical skill merely sustains it, in my opinion.

Having said that, I agree that neither skill nor the utility of work is the criteria for salary in the existing system. why else would sachin tendulkar get paid obscene amounts compared to an agricultual laborer or even a life saving doctor, although his work is hardly as critical as those of the latter two? the current system of salary assignment depends only on supply and demand. There is more demand for a software engineer than an agricultural laborer, hence the former is paid more. likewise, millions of cricket crazy fans like me are willing to shell out big bucks to watch sachin bat, so he gets such truckloads of money.

Frankly, I have no complaints with the existing system because it is self correcting: it propels people to acquire skills for jobs that need to be filled (like how the indians quickly filled the vacuum in the software industry). it is also based on what the society values at a given moment (whether good or bad).

It may have its share of problems, but the alternative scenario of fixing salaries artifically is only possible in a dictatorial, communist regime, which is even more nightmarish to imagine!

-Ramesh

Anonymous said...

@Puru

> why do we rate physical labor so low?

Answer to this question is historical. Indian society has been doing this since thousands of years. We have divided society into four varna (chaturvarn), depending on their occupation. And historically reading Vedas (job of brahmin) is considered much important than cleaning toilets (job of kshudra). According to me whatever we are seeing today is just history's reflection.

You claimed at one point blue colored job were paid as much as white colored job. But that point I guess was the starting of industrial revolution. But now it is different scene this is marketing/media/software revolution, hence again the white color is brahmin and blue color is kshudra. This distinction is decided by on which wave we are riding.

You were talking about skill levels required for blue color job. Honestly tell me, which you consider more skillful: solving an algorithm or cleaning a toilet? What is respected worldwide?

Puru said...

@anon, ... "do you mean to say agricultural workers know multivariate analysis ? or just that its a high risk job?"

One could flip the question, do people who know multivariate analysis know how, when, to sow seeds and harvest crops or erect a scaffolding that holds 10-floors and holds 100 people? So when all people cannot have all the expertise why such a large disparity in the importance given to each?

@ramesh, ... "Frankly, I have no complaints with the existing system because it is self correcting: it propels people to acquire skills for jobs that need to be filled (like how the indians quickly filled the vacuum in the software industry)."

1. the software industry is a very very minuscule portion of labour force in India.
2. one may have no complaints because of the privileged position she/he is in ... everyone does not have the privilege and the opportunity to learn and choose what she/he would want to do.

@anon, ... "Honestly tell me, which you consider more skillful: solving an algorithm or cleaning a toilet?"

so, is "skill" the only metric of wages? what about a function that accounts for more factors ...
"skill", how essential the work is, #hours, conditions, periodicity etc.?

and as i mentioned in a previous comment, i think "skill" itself is very subjective and very hard to quantify, but we tend it use it so loosely and readily to put a tag on several things.

Anonymous said...

puruman,

"1. the software industry is a very very minuscule portion of labour force in India."

i only gave the software example to illustrate how the supply and demand model drives people to acquire new skills and adapt to changing conditions. The nice thing
about this model is that it "automatically" decides what society considers valuable and determines the prices goods and services accordingly.

"2. one may have no complaints because of the privileged position she/he is in ... everyone does not have the privilege and the opportunity to learn and choose what she/he would want to do."

I did not mean to be insensitive to the underprivileged when I said I was fine with the system. For that matter, I myself was not all that privileged in my upbringing and I understand their difficulties to some extent.

I would probably support things like raising the minimum wages for all or some social security schemes rather than artificially impose equal salaries to one and all. I think it's better if we left it to the market to determine that.

-Ramesh