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Janitors are worth more than bankers, study says

British think tank calculates relative worth of six professions.

By Teresa Mears Dec 15, 2009 5:04PM

A British study has now confirmed what many of us have long suspected: Hospital janitors are worth more to society than bankers.


Perhaps the janitors should get the bonuses. The study, “A Bit Rich: Calculating the Real Value to Society of Different Professionals,” wasn’t directly tied to the huge bankers’ bonuses that have raised ire in the U.K. (and the U.S., for that matter) or the 50% tax Britain has slapped on those bonuses. (A “whack the banker” game is all the rage in Britain these days, according to the BBC.)


According to Britain’s New Economics Foundation, a think tank whose motto is “economics as if people and the planet mattered,” hospital janitors create 10 pounds of value for every pound (about $1.62) they earn. Bankers, on the other hand, destroy 7 pounds of value for every pound they earn.


“We found that rather than being ‘wealth creators,’ these City bankers are being handsomely rewarded for bringing the global financial system to the brink of collapse,” the study’s authors wrote.


Advertising executives were found to be even more of a negative to society, while child care workers and waste recyclers got positive ratings.

"Pay levels often don't reflect the true value that is being created,” Eilis Lawlor, spokeswoman for the New Economics Foundation, was quoted as saying by the BBC News. “As a society, we need a pay structure which rewards those jobs that create most societal benefit rather than those that generate profits at the expense of society and the environment."


The study looked at six professions and put a value to society on each. These were its conclusions:

  • Bankers cost society 7 pounds for each pound they are paid.
  • Advertising executives destroy 11 pounds for each pound they are paid. The industry "encourages high spending and indebtedness. It can create insatiable aspirations, fuelling feelings of dissatisfaction, inadequacy and stress,” the authors noted.
  • Tax accountants got the worst ratings, with the study finding they destroy 47 pounds in value for each pound they earn. “Every pound that a tax accountant saves a client is a pound which otherwise would have gone to HM [government] Revenue,” the study said
  • Waste recyclers generate 12 pounds in value to society for each pound they are paid. Their value comes both in reusing goods and reducing carbon emissions.
  • Hospital cleaners generate 10 pounds in value for every pound they are paid.
  • Child care workers generate between 7 pounds and 9.5 pounds for every pound they are paid. This takes into account the earnings potential of parents who are able to work because someone is caring for their children as well as the impact on the children’s learning skills.

The study raises some interesting points about how our society values different kinds of work, and the compensation workers receive for various professions.


Why do the CEOs who brought us the financial crisis receive huge salaries and bonuses while workers lose their jobs or undergo pay cuts? What professions do you think are underrated or overrated when it comes to pay and perks?


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