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Enrichment

Exploring Wage Differentials and Remuneration for Key Workers [Year 13 Enrichment Task]

Penny Brooks

15th April 2020

In this task students consider the low wages paid to many of those who have been defined as key workers in the current crisis, and asks whether their roles should be recognised with higher pay, after the Covid-19 crisis is over, and how should such a change should be funded

Yr 13 2 Wage Differentials And Remuneration For Key Workers

The coronavirus outbreak has brought a re-evaluation of jobs previously classed as low-value, and now seen as key workers. The government has drawn up a list of occupations which are now seen as essential in the economy. You can find the full list here

It is summarised as:

  • Frontline health workers, not only doctors and nurses but also the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector, and those working as part of the health and social care supply chain
  • Some teachers and social workers
  • Workers in key public services including those essential to the justice system, religious staff and public service journalists
  • Local and national government workers deemed crucial to delivering essential public services
  • Workers involved in food production processing, distribution, sale and delivery
  • Public safety workers including police, armed forces personnel, firefighters and prison staff
  • Essential air, water, road and rail transport workers
  • Utilities, communication and financial services staff, including postal workers and waste disposal workers

As we turn to online shopping to buy things from the shops we cannot visit, the likes of Amazon, with its army of box packers and delivery drivers, are talked of as an extension of the emergency services.

Tutor2u’s website has a reference article which looks at the reasons for Wage Differentials in an economy, and can be found here:

It is notable that many of those ‘essential workers’ receive very low wages. A ‘free-to-read’ article in the FT (highlighted by Geoff on the Economics blog) considered the range of roles now classified as key workers, particularly those which are the lowest paid and working on zero-hours contracts, and looks at how they might be better paid in the future – and the costs of doing so. You can find that article (which is essential reading) here:

The ONS Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings for 2019 (https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/earningsandworkinghours/bulletins/annualsurveyofhoursandearnings/2019) showed that:

  • Median weekly earnings for full-time employees reached £585 in April 2019, an increase of 2.9% since April 2018.
  • In real terms (after adjusting for inflation), median full-time employee earnings increased by 0.9% in the year to April 2019.

It also includes an interactive graphic which allows you to compare the annual pay of people in a wide variety of occupations: https://www.ons.gov.uk/visualisations/dvc696/occupationpay/index.html

Consider the following ‘key worker’ roles, and research the pay available for them:

  • Hospital porters and cleaners
  • Childcare assistants in nurseries
  • Care workers in care homes and visiting patients in their own homes
  • Supermarket shelf-stackers
  • Warehouse staff at Amazon
  • Delivery drivers for Amazon or other delivery services

Using this research, the articles referenced above, and your own further research, answer this question:

Should the role of ‘key workers’ be recognised with higher pay, after the Covid-19 crisis is over? How should such a change be funded?

Penny Brooks

Formerly Head of Business and Economics and now Economics teacher, Business and Economics blogger and presenter for Tutor2u, and private tutor

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