This crisis is forcing an urgent re-evaluation of that, along with all those other jobs that were previously classed as low-value yet now turn out to be the most important in the country. Words are no

This crisis is forcing an urgent re-evaluation of that, along with all those other jobs that were previously classed as low-value yet now turn out to be the most important in the country. Words are not enough, and nor is clapping; you can praise care workers to the skies, but if you’re paying them the minimum amount in 15-minute segments, without security of hours or of employment, without sick or holiday pay, then the praise is hollow.

You can wax sentimental about the holy vocation of nursing, but you cannot then bring second-year students on to the frontline to fight coronavirus and still expect them to pay their tuition fees.

[...]

Yet this is about more than money: Keir Starmer accepted the Labour leadership on Saturday with the rousing Old Testament statement about all key workers, cleaners, paramedics, carers, porters: “For too long they’ve been taken for granted and poorly paid. They were last and now they should be first.” But what would it actually mean to put these jobs first?

There is nothing radical in the observation that jobs are often described as low-skill, when actually they are just poorly paid. More radical, yet still accurate, is the assertion that they are characterised as “low-skill” deliberately. Caring is a job of tremendous skill, hard as well as soft. And while there is a huge amount of bolt-on expertise that employers require, from administering medicines to dealing with dementia, this is not reflected in any career progression. It is not unusual for a carer in her 40s to be on the same hourly rate, adjusted for inflation, that she was on at 18.

This has been systematic, not accidental.

[...]

In the immediate term, putting key workers first means personal protective equipment; it means collective and determined effort to strip as much risk as possible out of essential jobs that simply wouldn’t get done if everyone looked out for themselves. But there will be an era after coronavirus; and one thing to carry into it will be a determination never again to think, talk about or treat people as though logic demands they should be screwed down to their lowest possible price.

THEGUARDIAN.COM

We say we value key workers, but their low pay is systematic, not accidental | Zoe Williams

If they are to be first, not last, we have to look at the conditions that drive wage stagnation, says Guardian columnist Zoe Williams

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Kimberly Perez

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