Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Big What If

So... every now and again an idea might occur to me that I think, "Well... what if?"

Most of the time I'm fairly sure that these ideas have been bandied around and disregarded for some economic reasons that I don't see the full impact of from my cubby hole in the world. But, on this occasion I'm putting an idea out there...

Now, if you have any thing to add or suggest as to why this could have merit or ruin civilised society then please feel free to tell me and let's have a chat. Lovely. Here we go.

The basis of my idea is this:

"Could you have, and would it work, different minimum wages for different levels of qualifications?"

The basic UK minimum wage for over 21 is £6.19 an hour. What if that became the minimum wage only for someone with no qualifications at all?

Beyond that, and this is just as an example and I have given no research into what figures would be practical you could demonstrate something like:

1-5 GCSEs or equivalent - £6.30 an hour
5-10 GCSEs or equivalent - £6.40 an hour

1-4 AS Levels or equivalent - £6.60 an hour
1-4 A Levels or equivalent - £6.70 an hour

A Degree - £7 an hour
Masters Degree - £7.50 an hour

"In a revised version of this scheme, having spent a long time discussing children vs education, GCSEs vs equivalent qualifications, I am wondering if this scheme would have more benefit if actually it ignored University where you would expect graduates to not work for minimum wage in their field, and concentrated on encouraging people to stay in education up until 18.

That way, it is becoming less alienating to those who choose young families, travelling or simply experience on the job over University, but it still offers short term benefits to staying in education."

Obviously, you would have to work out what equivalent qualifications to these got as a minimum wage and it could be squared out accordingly.

To me, this would give young people an incentive to stay in education because it's a difference they will be seeing it in their pocket right from the word go.

I would be interested in someone explaining calmly why exactly people from poorer backgrounds are put off university. I know high tuition fees are terrifying at first but you don't don't pay any of it back until you are qualified and earning a wage. At which point, if we've got the system right, you're back on a level playing field with everyone else who has a degree whatever their parents' earnings. From my understanding of it, not putting up tuition fees is more unfair to people from poorer backgrounds because the money is instead footed from the tax payer - made up of tax payers who didn't go to university. Therefore, people who couldn't afford to go are part funding your degree.

I am from a totally average background, I had a student loan and I funded my whole degree myself by working all the way through it - my parents didn't input. Obviously, I am completely happy to be told I'm wrong if I've missed something but that's my understanding of the situation.

Edit - "Having sat down and thought about the last paragraph I've realised what a smug prick I am. It's not necessarily about whether you borrowed money off your parents to go to uni. It's also about whether your family could all afford to eat if you weren't also working alongside your parents at the age of 16. There are a lot of other factors in "being able to afford things" than it's easy to see. I am quite ashamed of myself."

So, theoretically, and I cannot reiterate this enough - feel free to (politely) contradict me. This scheme could encourage more people into higher education with short term benefits.

A negative I have considered; would it mean that highly qualified people could struggle to get part time work?

At the moment, despite being having a Masters Degree I work for £6.20 an hour doing what, in theory, should be menial office tasks. However, because I'm competent (and I attribute having this ability to my state education) I am often tasked with more complex things to do because my superiors know I can do it. They are getting more for their money than they should.

If my scheme worked correctly, I should just get paid more to do what I do because I'm doing it better than I would have done without my education. Please note - I'm not saying I am doing it better than someone without a degree. Absolutely not. However, a scheme like this would probably blanket over that fact so it is a definite negative to the system. I also have a feeling it would just result in companies only hiring people with minimum skills to save wages.

Could there be an option to agree to work for a lower wage band if you wanted to? So, for example, for the job I am doing now I would be happy to jump down to a GCSE qualified pay band because I only want the job as a back up to comedy and it's not a full time job or career plan.

What this might do, however, is make companies re evaluate exactly how qualified they need people to be for their jobs and give us a better measure of whether it's really worth qualifying ourselves to the hilt? Do I need my Masters degree? Would the tax payers' money and my own have been better spent building a giant
electric wall to keep Tories away from hospitals?

How would a scheme like this react to:

Mavis Bletchley has worked at ASDA for 18 years. She has 8 GCSEs. She earns £6.40 an hour.

Joanne Lovett has joined ASDA after completing her degree and now earns 60p more an hour than Mavis despite having no experience in the job.

Presumably companies would still keep loyalty based pay rises in place if they had been there previously?

Would this cause education based hierachys in the work place, and if so, is that a bad thing? There are already hierachys in the work place - surely education can't be the worst thing to base it on?

Anyway, there's some ideas world. Run with it, find the holes in it and please tell me (calmly and politely) and lets have a chat...


  1. Highly qualified folk wouldn't be able to get part-time work as you have mentioned but also people with few qualifications would struggle to reach their potential earning capacity in employment. Life skills are not best judged (in my humble opinion) by qualifications. A person may have many skills that can not be 'tested' in an exam. I would be very upset if someone was doing the same job as me yet getting paid more. Businesses would be highly tempted to employ 'cheap' workers. This already happens in education where newly-qualified teachers find it much easier to get a job than experienced teachers as they are cheaper to employ.

    Yours, calmly and politely!

  2. I think this question is very much a product of the times - before the recession it is my understanding (but not experience) that a degree would pretty much guarantee you a job at a graduate level. Maybe not in your field but definitely a salary rather than minimum wage sort of deal. However, what we have now is the best candidates that apply for jobs, particularly in student centered Brighton, getting the jobs and being paid minimum wage for bar, call centre and shop work. Previously these jobs would have gone to people with 5 GCSEs or even less qualifications because the necessary skills can be learnt on the job. But now us graduates/students are pushing them out as we are the best candidates, therefore our superior education is already benefiting us without need for different wages.

    Labour is in the process of bringing in a policy of a living wage for 2015 which would be around 7.20 rather than the current minimum wage - so that would definitely help - especially with getting out of debt. I have been landed with a massive overdraft as the result of a year working on minimum wage and living in Brighton.

    I think that people will be inspired to continue with education when they see real, attractive job prospects out there, not if they get a little more each hour. That's what needs solving.

    EMA was a great scheme to keep people studying to A Level or equivalent, but I think this has stopped? That would be a better use of the money.

    Hope that helps!