I was talking to Bindi about this today. It’s not the first time I’ve thought or talked about it and I still don’t have an answer! 🙁 Maybe you can help me?

I would say the most important jobs/roles in society fall into three categories. These are health, education and welfare.

Health encompasses nursing, doctors and so on.

Education includes teachers, learning assistants and more.

Welfare is about carers, staff who work in ‘homes’ or in a hospice and social workers.

If you think about it, the jobs are highly pressurised, they involve a lot of paperwork, they are bureaucratic and poorly paid! I mustn’t forget to mention that staff are accountable to the public as well!

Why then are they so poorly paid?

How does it make sense?

How can other jobs pay so much more?

I was talking to Suraj about this and he said it’s because most people are interested in making money. Thus if you make money for someone, you get paid more. That’s why so many other jobs are better paid.

Those of us in health, welfare and education don’t do that. We only look after what is the most precious thing to most people, at one point in their life or another. Usually ‘this thing’ becomes even more precious when they lose it or feel as if it’s slipping away. I guess this refers more directly to health and welfare. With regards to children, most people will tell you that their most precious possession is their children.

If you take all this into account why are people in these professions paid so little?

Yes, consultants are paid more because they have studied for so long and they know so much but do they really deserve to be paid so much more? Who does the daily caring for the patients? Remember this includes lifting them, helping them go to the toilet, changing bandages, administering medication, saving lives, counselling and more! One of my good friends is a nurse and she has a poor social life! Why? Well…she works unsociable hours and when she’s not working, she’s recovering from her shifts and her lack of sleep. Nurses aren’t in a job where they can say ‘I’m going to go and take my break now’. They have to make sure that patients wont be left vulnerable and without supervision. They often don’t finish when they’re supposed to and they don’t get paid for this so called ‘overtime’.

Yes head teachers are paid so much because they are responsible for the school but who teaches the children everyday, cares for them, checks for neglect, signs of abuse, helps them socialise, encourage them to be independent and so much more? Teachers are on the front line. Sometimes we play the role of being the parent of the parents, parent to the child, social worker, counsellor, child protection, academic educator, report writer and so much more. We don’t clock off at 3:15 p.m. and start at 9 a.m. We work before and after school hours. We work during the holidays completing assessments, marking, planning etc. Unlike being in an office, we often have to plan going to the toilet because we can’t just leave the class because we need to go. Some schools now have a sign in Reception saying that the staff have the right to come to work without being abused. This seems to be a situation that a lot of key workers are finding themselves in. What a shame!

I’m not sure if those who run ‘homes’ and those who manage social workers are paid lots more but generally they do not have enough funding, enough staff or enough power to do what they need to do. Of course when this reality is in the face of the public; there’s uproar, outrage and demands are made but the issue and the risks are not new! They were there before, it’s just that something horrid happened, got well publicised and suddenly everyone’s interested! How does that work?

Where does more money need to be placed?

Where does funding really need to go?

Any ideas?

Do you agree or disagree? Please do share your thoughts with me. It’s something I’ve struggled to understand for a very long time!

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Sagar Shah · April 7, 2009 at 1:50 pm


Its pretty difficult to get at understanding what the most important jobs/roles in society are….

Yes – jobs in healthcare/welfare/education are important, but so are jobs in research, technology. And to some extent, even though banking may not appear to be that great socially beneficial from what you read on the news, they perform a massively important function, many companies wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the ability to raise finance, and the tax revenues from profitable sectors have helped create tax revenue which helps fund other social services. I think its really hard to class one as more important than the other….

I agree with Suraj that people who generate more money get paid more, but it is also to do with the appropriability of the revenue generation. As a teacher (or healthcare worker) you can be decisive in where someone to becomes very rich in the future (and hence generate lots of money), or whether they don’t end up doing very much for themselves. BUT, it is really hard for you to come and say that you are entitled to some of their pay, because they wouldn’t be where they are if it wasn’t for you.

Working in the private sector, where you don’t just work with people, and you are making decisions which help generate money – its much easier to appropriate the money that you help generate.

A second factor to consider is the role of the government.

Most of the jobs that you have highlighted above are delivered through goverment institutions (NHS, Schools, Hospitals, Hospices, Care homes etc).

Since the government is the employer of almost every teacher, almost every nurse and almost every care worker in the country – it has something which economists called monopsony power. It can reduce wages, but because there is limited competition for similar jobs (i.e. its hard to get a job in the private sector in teaching, nursing), the government is able to reduce wages, and control the number of people employed. If there was more competition in ownership of these jobs, I think the situation would be qutie different.

If you contrast wages of healthcare professionals, and the Academics in the US and UK (most healthcare is administered privately in the US, and top universities are also private in the US) you can see that there is stark difference in pay rates.

If you look at health statistics, the UK has delivered better health outcomes than the US at a fraction of the cost. And many people in the US are really unhappy with their healthcare systems – and unhappy with the inqeuality of their education system. Would you rather pay 2x as much in taxes for healthcare and not get much better treatment?

Of course, having said that – many health and education innovations have come from the US, and this may be to do with the payment structure, and the fact that they can attract more talented individuals than is possible in the UK….

You noted that consultants get paid a lot more. I think the reason is because it is much easier for them to move into the private sector (because they are specialists in their field, and there arn’t too many other consultants in their field around), and so the government needs to pay them sufficiently to make them stay working for the NHS. Although dentists arn’t specialists in the same way – a similar argument can explain why they are paid so much.

Although nurses provide a valuable function, because they ‘individually’ arn’t so important – they arn’t able to command the same wages.

Interestingly, Junior doctors are paid a lot less than nurses and have had to study for a lot longer than nurses, and also (From that I have been told by my junior doctor friends) have to work longer (and as unsociable) hours. I think is partially due to the fact that the NHS knows that medical students are generally committed to being doctors, and know that one day they are going to get paid lots, so they endure being indebted and treated worse than people who have studied less.

Funding for public sector programmes is a massive problem too. The cost of providing healthcare is increasing massively (because of new technologies), and since life expectancy is increasing, there are more and more older people with requiring more expensive treatment. Under-funded budgets are going to be a problem in these sectors forever in my opinion….

I’d say the biggest disparity should be with poeple in the entertainment industry – who generate absolutely ridiculous revenues. Just think how much footballers make. And the difference between the absolute best footballers and the not so amazing ones isn’t all that large. But superstar nature of the industry is such that they can make masses of moeny…

Footballers do of course play a massive role in society. They can give young people hope, encourage them to play sport, give them something to do that keeps them off other problematic activities.

But is it right that the BBC pays people like Jonathon Ross so much?

I’m not so sure that a public organisation should be paying so much to people in entertainment, when private sector organisations can do similar things and raise the money through private sector revenus…

    Heena Modi · April 19, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    You’ve made so many good points.
    I feel passionately against the wages that footballers & ‘stars’ like Jonathan Ross get paid too!
    With a fraction of their incomes we could resource schools better, improve orphanages, care homes, help the homeless and so much more! I know my view is philanthropic and ideal but these issues are very close to my heart.
    Society generally seems to materialistic, so me me me, nothing is enough and whilst we carry on ‘progressing’ this way; we are losing our humanity, compassion and perception of what’s REALLY valuable.

Ben · April 7, 2009 at 3:38 pm

It’s simple really. We live in a society where the only really important thing is the bottom line. Yes- your average person may believe that health, eduction and welfare are the most importnat jobs in society. However, society is ruled by all powerful entities whose only care is how much profit they are making, and how they can make more.

Which is why the government can spend countless billions bailing out RBS (where the leading bonuses came to more than all the money spent on renewables in the UK in the past 3 years) and today is can announce that it is axing 1000s of jobs.

It’s all about profit.

Is society changing? Are we beginning to see what is really important? I don’t know. We will have to fight to do so……

    Heena Modi · April 19, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to comment Ben.
    You are right and it’s such a shame.
    With things like this I’d rather be proved wrong but we have to be realistic I guess.
    I guess the only solution is for those who are not profit minded, to stay strong and share their thoughts with others to try and inspire people to be different in a good way!

Sumaiya · May 9, 2009 at 4:27 pm

It’s true what you all have said. It is also very true to say ‘How do you define important roles in society?’. Ironically to this debate, isn’t the Prime Minister an important role? but you’re right, your average Joe would say health, education and welfare are important job roles to have. The government even calls them ‘key workers’. But you have to remember, we live in a capitalist society. Which has its high ups, but as this debate shows, has its lows.

I don’t beleive we will ever see a balance in wages between the private and public sectors. This is a cpaitalist nation which is driven on money and unfortunately that is what its boiled down to……..MONEY.

‘Money makes the world goes round.’ is the saying. Maybe in some circles is does, but it does leave behind a lot of people having to pick up the pieces of the many who just can’t go round the world that easily!

It’s almost a catch 22 situation. You need these ‘key workers’ who are mainly employed by the government and therefore needs YOUR MONEY to feed the government to pay the ‘key workers’. Now, honestly, in a recession like this, who has a lot of money to feed the government to feed the key workers? Many people have now lost their jobs, can’t send their kids to private schools, kids go to state schools, state schools are over-filling, etc. etc. We can go on for ever!

Ultimately, in a Capitalist society, this will always be the case. However, I do believe that a job is a job and each job is highly important. We also must remember that consultants, in any area, are not only payed for the fact that they have done their research and studied longer, but the responsibility is with them.

Think about it, if all the teachers in your school were not performing at their best level and results were poor, who would get the chop? Classroom teachers or the head teacher? If the school needed to be turned around, it was in special measures, who would be changed first? The classroom teacher or the head teacher? And the same goes for other sectors.

So there you go. I do beleive that society is beginning to realise that greed for money doesn’t get us anywhere, hence the recession. As a result lets hope that people’s senses get into gear and a balance between private and public is addressed.

Trevor · June 13, 2009 at 8:43 am

You have put far too high a sense of importance on the wage. Do you truly believe that people who volunteer to do charity work somehow makes their “job” less meaningful simply because they were not paid? Can you really be trying to argue that a church minister’s job is of less value simply because he takes home a tiny wage raised through the collection plate? Or is the job of a drug runner or casino gambler of more value to you simply because they take home a higher pay packet? Your basis for your logic is simply flawed when trying to measure the value of any job by the monies paid. Free and low paid work can be of more “value” – spiritually, emotionally, and physically – to the society th

    Heena Modi · June 14, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Thanks for this Trevor.
    I think I have been misunderstood. I don’t think voluntary work is less rewarding or without reward. I have been doing some form of voluntary work since I was 16 and have always enjoyed it! 🙂
    My point is that I don’t think it’s OK for jobs that are really important to society, where people have chosen a ‘selfless’ career path and often cannot earn a secondary income because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day; to pay so little.
    Others do so little for society in my view and they are rewarded with so much money.
    Professional footballers, bankers, IT consultants and the list goes on…

    Does this help you understand me better?

Sagar · July 17, 2009 at 1:28 am

Money doesn’t make the world go round, greed does.

We see it every day, all over the world. Poverty stricken neighborhoods, hospitals, schools etc. and it seems like nobody is willing to help. Everybody is only out to line their own pockets.

How about this concept: The more people who make money, the more people spend money, the stronger the economy, the more value our money has.

Thus, we should help each other make money, or at least have food on the table.

I agree that movie and sport stars are paid a hilarious amount of money. This would be okay if they actually did some good with it. Take Will.I.Am for example, paying to put 4 kids through college, Angelina Jolie who drops off food supplies with her own plane and gives a substantial amount of her earnings to charity.

The hardest and least recognised job in the world, I think, is a single parent. Hats off to you guys…

Helen · July 22, 2009 at 2:38 pm

I’ve been employed for several years now and I’m happy with it. Actually it’s the salary that matters but it’s the work and the people I am serving that I value most. It’s about dedication and commitment.

daniel · September 29, 2009 at 10:33 am

How can other jobs pay so much more?

amisha · September 13, 2010 at 4:55 pm

I’m a doctor (GP), and although you could say I have one of the most important jobs, my job is dependent on other’s doing their jobs well.

For example the people who created and maintain the software I use everyday to write my notes, prescriptions etc….. The engineers who developed the MRI….. The receptionist/ office staff who fax off my referrals so I use my time more constructiveley. We are all interdependent on each other to make the world go round.

Do I think i should get paid more than them! Yes of course, I could probably be trained to do what they do, but it would be very difficult for them to do my job. Should consultants get as paid as much as they do. I like to think they deserve the money. They have usually worked gruelling hard as junior doctors to get to where they are, pateints responsilbity ultimately goes to them; and I was always in awe of how they can cahneg peoples lives.

Yes nurses do deserve more, but more highly skilled work requires renumeration, or there would not be much of incentive to get there.

But it does seem that there are some jobs earning millions, which hold very little importance.

Hopefully the people entering healthcare, teaching, social care the emergency services etc are also being motivated by something other than money, i.e. personal satisfaction for helping shape and create a better society. Money does not bring what people are really looking for – happiness.

    Heena Modi · September 19, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Thanks Amisha
    Agreed! I think people in certain professions would be naive to go into them for money! It has to be about personal satisfaction and more. 🙂

Jenn · January 14, 2011 at 6:10 pm

The hardest job is being a firefighter or a police officer. They risk their lives for us and yet they are still under payed or volunteers. I think that we should just give them more appreciation and respect is all. I mean, sure, everyone wants money. But i think the most important thing to have is respect and appreciation. Nothing is better than the feeling of being appreciated, wouldn’t you say?

    Heena Modi · January 18, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    Thanks for sharing your comments Jenn.
    It sure does feel good to be appreciated! 🙂

SULAIMAN · February 23, 2011 at 7:00 pm

WELL,i think both jobs re important bcos without dem we’re nt goin 2 b who we re 2DAY…………………………..

UNKOWN · March 12, 2012 at 8:11 am

I believe that Teachers are the most important job because without teachers there will be no smart kids to be the doctors the politicians the well pretty much our entire world will collapse.

Curtis · July 19, 2012 at 10:33 pm

To me the most important jobs are jobs that wont send society 20 years or more back into the past just because a somewhat apocalyptic event, also destroyed most if not all places of knowledge, like computers or libraries which holds almost all of mans documented progress, these jobs or skills are metal smiths, foundry men, machinist, engineers, welders, construction workers, plumbers, farmers, scientists, doctors, nurses, geologists, self-defense persons, survivalists, tailors, and accountants, if these people of most if not all their field types are the remainders of an apocalyptic event, society will return to normal if not better in about 50-100 years.

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