Sunday, September 13, 2009

People are paid pico peanuts!

4 AM! Everyday! When you and I would be fast asleep! It is the time when the farmers / vendors from the near by villages reach Dadar Station in Mumbai and try to sell their basket of vegetables. Selling is not an easy job! Irrespective of the freezing cold or the scorching sun or ruthless rains, they just need to sell. Competition is very stiff with a very long queue of people sitting on the floor and selling  - Less to differentiate one from another - everyone competes on the price. And their business risk is no less! They take a huge inventory risk - If you don't sell by end of the day, it's GONE for one and all. For the kind of hard work and the risk, are they reaping enough returns? Single and simple answer is NO!

Look at artisans, people who are skilled at making handicrafts. Or the person who repairs your watches. Or a weaver. Or a factory worker - In chemicals factories. In biscuits companies. They make TANGIBLE things and are SKILLED at making them. You and I can't imagine being skilled like them. Nevertheless they get paid in fractions of what you and I would get paid for.

The last category is the most difficult of the three. People who do the toughest, most risky jobs and the jobs people feel uneasy to do. To give a flavor of what I have in mind: Sweepers / scavengers in a city like Mumbai with large slums like Dharavi and Govandi. Or workers who migrate from villages to cities for the construction of high-rise buildings, [each of which, unfortunately seems to suck the lives of at least few workers during the construction  - nobody cares about them and the death news is never made public]. Or those who work in dangerous environments like mines, fireworks / fuel / power plants. Their lives are more vulnerable than ours. Still they get paid in peanuts. In relative terms.

So, it's not the hard work, the risk taking abilities, the skills or the vulnerable jobs, which decides the level of salaries / returns. Then, what's deciding them?

Intelligence is probably a necessary condition. Today's information age has definitely placed undue weightage to intelligence than others (probably it's supply-demand equation!) Second is Environment (e.g. your family, school, college, friends etc) and the exposure, support and guidance it provides. Third is what they call Luck - the timing and the opportunity. Unfortunately, you don't have too much control over these three.

I am not downplaying the importance of hard work and attitude. Yes, they are necessary and important. Just that they don't play the primary roles, they should ideally be playing. At least, when it comes to Money!

It is very hard to accept it. The only way I put myself to peace is by telling - after all, money is not everything!