Wages in Our Social Ordering
Feb 5, 2011

Wages in Our Social Ordering

How much ought one be compensated for an undesirable job? That is, for jobs which are undesirable for reasons outside of monetary compensation such as perhaps being physically tolling, repetitive, of low intellectual simulation and the like. Economically, a demand side consideration implies the lower demand for such tasks would result in higher remuneration than for more desirable tasks out of need to entice people to the less desirable jobs. However, any observation of our society shows this is far from the truth. Indeed, undesirable tasks are almost universally paid very poorly.

This contradiction implies that the supply side of economics is utterly dominating in this case. Namely, there is such an enormous supply of labour willing to accept undesirable jobs that the relative undesirability becomes irrelevant to their compensation. Our current social ordering of low compensation to low desirable jobs is thus entirely predicated and dependent upon significant class divide in our society. Desirable jobs remain with the relatively well off (such as the highly educated) while undesirable jobs are deferred to the poor. It is the striking size and asymmetry of this societal division that results in the supply side economics trumping demand side economics in labour wages.

A large part of this of course is the correspondence between highly desirable jobs and highly skillful jobs. This connection is worth exploring more deeply at another time, but it is certainly interesting that by and large jobs people find pleasure in doing require considerable skill. A high skill job has a small amount of people capable of doing it and hence constrained supply therefore higher wages. Low skill jobs have a high fecundity - people can do them with little training or experience - and thus have a large pool of people capable of performing them. The large supply results in lower labour wages.

It is in this context that we see how it is the sheer size of the lower classes that results in their low wages for undesirable labour. Furthermore, the larger society is dependent on a class division of this general magnitude to maintain this backwards seeming wage disparity where undesirable jobs are remunerated less than desirable ones. 

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