Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Essential vs. "unskilled" workers

I've been hearing workers described as either "essential," "non-essential," "skilled," and "unskilled" for a while now.

An "unskilled" worker may be commonly defined to be a fast food restaurant employee, a retail clerk, or some other customer service-related position that tends to not require special training or a higher education.  An "essential" worker is commonly defined as someone whose position is essential to the continued operation of a company, government, or other employer.

It's weird, though, because fast food workers of all stripes are literally essential to the continuation of the company.  Retail clerks are literally essential to the continuation of the store's operation.  They are, however, considered "unskilled," and paid accordingly.

Why are employers basing their pay scales on supposed skills, rather than how essential the job is to the employers' business operation?  A number of reasons, some simple and others not, some understandable and others simply greedy.  I don't know all the answers.  But it does seem a bit, oh, I don't know, unfair that we continue to allow those who perform vital tasks that keep businesses and governments running efficiently to be considered altogether less important than those who have other jobs based on college degrees.

Just a thought.