What is work?


           Much of the debate in the UK about work is conducted based on a simple minded distinction between work and non work. People imply that work is going to a place of employment in return for wages. Everything else the person does is non work. If someone spends too much time doing paid work he or she will be told to “get a life”, “spend more time with their family”, “take some time off” etc.

           This type of thinking can cause people not to enjoy much or anything of their time at paid work. It muddles up the rest of a person’s time with leisure and pleasure, when much of it  may not be pleasurably spent. It often assumes that all paid for work is hard and undesirable from the point of view of the employee, a necessary evil or interruption to their private lives.

          It is probably better to think of four main chunks of time we have. There is time spent on work for pay. There is time spent on work without pay to look after our homes and families. There is leisure time. Then there is chill out, relaxing and sleep time, when we do very little at home.

         I am particularly interested in the first two periods of time, paid for work time and unpaid work time. Some people think it better to do more paid for work, so they can hire in more help with the household work. If you earn enough you can pay someone else to undertake child care, pay the supermarket and food industry to prepare your meals and bake your cakes, employ a cleaner, window cleaner, house maintenance people and the rest. You end up paying a lot more tax doing this, as you have to pay extra income tax on your higher earnings for daring to work more, and then VAT and other taxes on the bought in goods and services.

         Buying in help is not just the preserve of the rich. Every household does it to some extent. Low income households do not usually hire a cleaner, but they often buy lots of prepared food rather than peeling the  vegetables and making the soup themselves. Some mothers buy disposable nappies even when they have modest income because they prefer not to wash textile ones. An elderly person on a small  income may have to pay a decorator to repaint the living room. Most people hire plumbers or electricians to fix problems.

          It is difficult to judge how much time people in practice spend working. The idea that we should be able to finish with work  after  a 37 to 40 hour working week full time job is silly. Most people have to put in many more hours preparing meals, hoovering carpets, washing floors, making beds and doing odd jobs. Some have to weed the garden as well. The interesting question is the choices make about the split between the amount of unpaid work they are willing to do, and the amount of paid work they wish to do to give them more choices over the domestic chores.

         One of the features of our economic growth figures is the economy appears to expand if more people decide to work more and earn more, so they can spend more on help for the home. At times of retrenchment more work is done unpaid, as people have to do more themselves because they have lost bonuses or overtime, or even lost their jobs. Some of these changes make little difference to what work is done, but they change who does it.

          Some seem to think that for most people the only option is to undertake just one full time job, and then make the family budget work around that. The amount you have to do unpaid is simply forced upon you by the adequacy or inadequacy of your pay relative to your domestic wishes. As we will see tomorrow, more people have more choices than this way of looking at it suggests.

          It is also wrong to say that all paid for work is done because you have to rather than because you want to. Many people now do have jobs they like, or have jobs with features that they enjoy. The workplace can provide social contact with a wide range of people. People can sometimes get a job related to a hobby, pastime or passion they have. Some musicians are paid to play, some collectors are paid to be antique dealers, some sporting enthusiasts are paid to play the game they love.


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  1. lifelogic
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    Indeed for most people on normal wages the tax system vat 20%, income tax 50%, social security (both employer and employee) 22% and the cost of getting to and from work (and other non tax allowable costs of work) means that it is almost always better to do you own DIY, repairs, shopping, child care, gardening, driving lessons, tax returns and all the rest. Unless you are paid perhaps twice the rate of people who provide these services. Even if these services are provided far more efficiently and safely by professionals.

    The over high tax system often encourages amateurism and inefficiency. But this government is high tax borrow and waste so few jobs and no growth.

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      I see LibDem Paul Burstow proposes means testing the Winter fuel payment. Another back door tax increase.

      So we tax pensioners on their pensions, then give then a tiny bit back, but then means test them yet again and only give it to some of them.

      Sounds like more nonsense from the Libdems and lots of pointless work for countless, overpaid and pensioned, parasites in the state sector. Do the Libdems ever suggest anything sensible?

      Do they still believe we are all going to a fiery hell due to the harmless tree food C02? Or are we all going to be flooded with rain instead now? Best build that Ark I suppose.

      • Bob
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

        “Do the Libdems ever suggest anything sensible? “

        An in/out referendum on our EU membership.

        This was at the time when they abstained from the Lisbon Treaty vote.

        • lifelogic
          Posted January 3, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

          True – but they just thought it would win votes and they would never have to deliver anyway. Rather like the University fees “I’m sorry promise”.

      • Disaffected
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

        Don’t forget Cameron is helping Clegg to get rid of the traditional family- no incentives as he pledged- (as well as culture, religion and beliefs) by spinning equality nonsense so that women feel afraid not to work rather than look after their children, which just might help some of the social problems in the country.

        Helping teenagers to have illegitimate children as a career choice on permanent welfare is not the answer. It is no good IDS spinning how much it costs the taxpayer after the Tory led coalition gave a 5.2% pay rise to welfare claimants this year. It was madness to allow it.

        Now today we hear Letwin lost his bet to Lord Lawson on Kayota. When will the taxpayer be refunded for the useless and stupid wind farms? When will our energy bills be reduced because of the green nonsense? When will DECC, the climate Change Act and Carbon emission nonsense be scrapped as unfit for purpose and a proper energy policy introduced? The same applies to Davey’s temporary loss of sanity to give Africa £2 billion pounds of taxpayers’ money for wind farms, when the country is broke and has to borrow the money and repay with interest!

        • James&Co
          Posted January 3, 2013 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

          Also now confused here as we were all told to buy rain harvesters – now we will be getting a disproportionate amount of rain here in the UK.

    • David John Wilson
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      If you think most people pay income tax at 50%, it is about ime you got out into the real world.

      • P O Taxpayer
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

        I’m sure that Lifelogic is taking into account the fact that NI contributions paid by all employees under the age of 65 is in addition to the basic rate of of tax but in effect is an income tax . A person on a modest salary of say £15,000 per year would be paying tax at about 33% on all pay over their tax free threshold.

        The rate at which the 40% tax rate starts is now effecting earners on I think around £35,000 per year which means that they are paying tax including NI that totals 53% . In the real World a lot of people are paying income tax at the 53% rate and they are not wealthy people!

        • Jerry
          Posted January 3, 2013 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

          @P O Taxpayer: No, Lifelogic mentioned the figure of 50% Income tax and then went on to list other taxes that also need to be paid on-top, one being NI (both employee and employer.

          • P O Pensioner
            Posted January 5, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

            Yes you are correct. My mistake.

    • Bazman
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      Lifelogic. The rich peasant. I am suspicious of pesto myself, but normal income tax is not 50% for the majority. Often DIY work takes time. It is easier work for one day and then to employ someone to do a better job with the right equipment than to spend two days DIY even though the professional will only take a few hours to do this. You see often wealthy men doing bad DIY at the weekends not enjoying it and wonder why. Little to do with the tax system I suspect and more to do with keeping the money out of others pocket. Let em’ get on with it I say.

      • lifelogic
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

        Some enjoy the change, I agree, but taxes are a huge incentive to DIY rather than work and earn, pay tax/NI, employ and pay VAT then pay them and then they pay tax/NI too.

      • lifelogic
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

        I was quoting the highest tax rate for effect, and to point out the we still have Osborne’s absurd 50% even though it is reducing to the still absurd 45% in April.

        I am not sure what your reference to pesto is all about?
        Pesto is, of course, delicious and cheap too, so long as you do not buy a horrible jar and go DIY. Good olive oil, pine nuts, fresh basil, garlic, salt and Parmesan (or a good Grana Padano) all pounded and served with pasta and a bottle of Carricante grape vino. Who could want any more other than a bit of sunshine perhaps?

      • James&Co
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

        More to do with getting someone to turn up on time and finish the job actually. As an engineer I’m constantly amazed at the laxity in construction industries. I sometimes wonder what these people would make of boarding their 737 at Stanstead to find that the aerospace engineer made one wing slightly longer than the other then corrected it by cutting with an abrasive saw and polishing back.

        • lifelogic
          Posted January 4, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

          It is not always that much better in the aircraft industry – at least it was not 30 years ago when I was involved hopefully things have got better.

        • Bob
          Posted January 4, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

          “As an engineer I’m constantly amazed at the laxity in construction industries.”

          You’re not kidding!
          I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to carry out remedial work myself due to poor workmanship.

          I believe this could be due to the tax and benefits system, which puts their costs up thereby forcing them to cut corners in order to stay solvent.

          Maybe if there were more “affordable” labour available to them they would be able to complete their work to a higher standard instead of rushing off to the next job.

          • Bazman
            Posted January 4, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

            Cheap labour is rife in the construction industry and this is often the problem. What are you fantasising about now?

          • uanime5
            Posted January 4, 2013 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

            The problem is a cultural one, not a labour one. Construction companies bid as low as possible to get the work, then go bankrupt if anything goes wrong. Even when working on major construction projects.

            If labour costs went down all they’d do is offer lower prices.

          • Edward
            Posted January 4, 2013 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

            Quality is not a function of wages.

          • Bazman
            Posted January 5, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

            Try getting a decent tradesman for minimum wage and then tell me the same. The right money to attract the right people does not apply when hiring anyone in a low grade, but strangely applies very much so when hiring any higher grades. If you pay peanuts you get monkeys. If you pay coconuts the monkeys do not know how to open them. Ram it.

          • Edward
            Posted January 6, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

            I presume Baz, that you always ask how much money a tradesperson earns before you engage them to do a job for you and then armed with that information you pick the highest earner, because you seem to be saying that the more they earn the better their quality will be.
            An odd view in my opinion.

  2. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Looking at these issues from an economic angle of course includes “money”, which by itself is like “freedom of choice” (or stacks of colored paper if you decide just to sit on it). If you’d use a wider parameter like “contentment”, it doesn’t only come from the freedom of choice that money would bring. Contentment is also earned when you learn to love what you (have to) do, when you cannot do what you love. It is thus also a matter of mindset.
    I could chose to approach my decreasing pension with indignation or just be content that we’ll all together get through this crisis and view the parks nearby as my personal gardens being maintained specially for me (and paid for by me through local tax).

    • P O Taxpayer
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      I agree!

  3. alan jutson
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    The great expectation of some economists of people not having to go to the office but working from home is perhaps not working out as forecast.

    The vast majority of people are not efficient workers when at home, missing the social interaction of work, many do not have the self discipline to work hours on their own, many suffer distractions which they would not get if at work.

    But above all, many find themselves out of the general information loop which enables efficient working.

    For some home working is a godsend and they are good at it, but I would suggest for the majority, and for many Companies it is second best.

    • Libertarian
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      You are not wrong.

      I own and run a Hotdesking Community Workspace in a small City in South East.

      More than 40% of our members are “homeworkers” who actually pay our small member fees in order to interact with others. They have the benefit of both worlds, they save time and money on transport costs whilst working for their London based employers ( on London salaries) with the benefits of actually being based locally

      • Bazman
        Posted January 4, 2013 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

        Moral sapping ant work. Best not to get a desk near the window of the 10th floor.

        • libertarian
          Posted January 4, 2013 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

          Pointless, inane comment.

          They are all highly paid creative types. Its a converted Victorian Warehouse, it only has two floors!!

  4. alan jutson
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Yes doing some physical work at home instead of going to the gym and paying for membership is a good substitute.

    Cutting the grass, digging the garden, walking to get the papers, even painting and decorating all helps to keep your mobility and your cash.

    Amazing how many people who go to the gym and pay for expensive membership, then want to park their car as close to the entrance as possible.

    Could never work this sort of logic out. !

    • Bob
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      They don’t go the the gym to get fit, they go there to meet people.

      • lifelogic
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

        Why would you want to meet the sort people who go to Gyms?

        • Bob
          Posted January 4, 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink

          I don’t know, it’s just something I heard on the radio the other day, they said that gyms are becoming an alternative to bars and nightclubs as a place to meet new friends.

          Sounds a bit odd, but then again, Facebook seems a bit odd to people of my age.

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      Indeed all the joggers cut all the corners off their runs and all the keen cyclists buy efficient light, narrow tyre bikes – would they not get more exercise on an old heavy one with a big basket on it?

      • Jerry
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        @Lifelogic: You’ve been watching Mr Beans Holiday! 🙂

        But seriously, as much as I detest cyclists training for their road racing competitions on open roads [1], I think you miss the point, lightness is about using the same amount of energy but to faster.

        [1] if an RAC rally driver took to the open road in hsi or her race prepaired motor vehicle and then also practised their driving craft the Police would soon be throwing the book at them

      • Bazman
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

        No they would not lifelogic. As you have pointed out before, no more effort is required. Remember?
        All this small DIY is good if you have the time. Never bothered with car washes until the East Europeans came here. They do a good job inside and out for a tenner, so why bother when you are working?

  5. David in Kent
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Considering your four chunks of time. I prefer thinking of: 1. Working for someone else. 2. Working for myself or my family. 3. Time doing nothing productive. 4. Sleep.
    I quite agree with you that work doesn’t have to me disagreeable from the point of the worker; obviously so in the cases you site of the sportsman or the musician but actually also in the case of very many jobs. So I make the distinction between the beneficiaries of the work.
    I have trouble with category 3, what you call leisure time. That seems to me a complete waste of a life. How can it be justified? Or should we categorise having dinner together with a bunch of friends as a form of work, and if so, for whom are we working?

  6. David Jarman
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    “Many people now have jobs they like, or features they enjoy”? I think you been asking too many politicians. Talk about out of touch! I am quite sure musicians, F1 drivers & premiership footballers makes up significantly less than 1% the workforce.

    • Libertarian
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

      So David

      You’ve never met an electrician or decorator that enjoyed their job? You’ve never met a chef or fashion designer that was in that line of work because they are good at it enjoy it and want to do it despite not earning as much as doing something else?

      Do you think the 4.1 million self employed or the 4.3 million small business owners all hate their work?

      I think it may be you that is out of touch.

      • David Jarman
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

        Did I say all 4.1M self employed & 4.3M small business owners hate their jobs? NO! Therefore I will not continue to justify my original statement.

        • libertarian
          Posted January 4, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

          No you said JR was out of touch as only 1% of workforce was likely to enjoy their jobs. I just gave you some evidence that its you thats out of touch as 8 million people is far more than 1% of workforce.

          There is no justification for your original statement !

          • David Jarman
            Posted January 5, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

            I did NOT say only 1% of the work force are likely to enjoy their jobs so are you a liar or (what-ed)? Isnt’t it just typical of people who can’t debate the points at hand make up their own B.S. to suit. I don’t debate (with people like you) so will not reply to any more of your comments.

  7. Electro-Kevin
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Cash-in-hand is a big issue in the UK.

    “When corporations and the rich can get away with minimising tax exposure why shouldn’t we ordinary people ? When the Govt blows my tax on layabouts and overseas aid why should I be keen to pay it ?”

    I know that this is simplistic, illegal and – in many cases – wrong but I’m afraid that his how people are thinking now.

    • Pleb
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      Using cash is not illegal.

      • Jerry
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

        @Pleb: Not declaring it is though, which is why Kevin used the phrase “Cash-in-hand”, and not</b payment by cash.

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      Clearly one should not do cash in hand. But in the system that now pertains in the UK, with taxes so high and complex. Also so biased against the law abiding and hard working, this is inevitable. We are rapidly moving to more of an Italian system where many people encourage and even admire tax avoidance and even evasion and often regard the state as a criminal enterprise of oppression. Which it often, alas, is – with jobs in it nearly all going to friends of the powerful. We have even seen this in police recruitment here – I believe.

      • theProle
        Posted January 6, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

        The rise of “Cash in Hand” is just an expression of the Laffer curve of taxation, particularly at the lower end of the wage spectrum, where because tax rates are too high people refuse to pay them.

        This is all in probably a good thing – if nothing else it provides downward pressure on income tax, VAT etc.

        It’s also the case that people are turning self-employed in droves where their employers will let them, as then they can write off most of their bills as expenses – I will probably be doing this at some point this year. and suspect that after taking off legitimate expenses I will probably pay about 25% of the tax I pay now…

  8. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Is beimg a housewife (or husband) work?

    Government evidently thinks not as the taxfree allowance for stay at home partners is not transferable.

    This anomoly ensures that anyone earning £52K per annum or above with a stay at home partner is at least £2.5K per year worse off than a couple where both parties earn £26K per year. That is before the graduated removal of child benefit.

    But it’s OK as anyone earning over £50K must be rich with broad shoulders mustn’t they? They don’t have to compete against housing benefit recipients pushing up prices with their unearned income do they?

    Work – I’d rather not thanks

    • Bazman
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

      Pushing the Hoover around a bit and watching daytime TV is not work.

      • peter davies
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        I have to look after the kids at home sometimes, I would take work any day of the week, even if it meant working in a mine or picking up rubbish!

        People underestimate how hard is it at home with kids, my other half given half a chance will go to work early and work late for free if it means escaping from the kids!

      • Magnolia
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

        It certainly isn’t but getting the hoover out and going all round the skirting boards and pulling out the heavy stuff to vacuum underneath and then using the attachments to reach up and vacuum the curtain poles and those pesky cobwebs might be. And what about all that dusting and the window wipe over and then there’s the meals. Not much work there perhaps? Start with the trip to the shops to buy the ingredients, then lug it all up the steps and unpack everything and before you sit down with a nice Gand T start peeling the veg and trimming the meat and then fuss over it to pull it all together on those magically warmed plates that have to be got out, prepared and put on the table and watch the family stuff down their meal in ten minutes flat. Hardly work now?
        Watch the mountain of dirty dishes be rinsed off and packed in to the wonderful dishwasher. Now here I confess to knowing little about emptying the thing because that’s my kids job. And after getting tomato sauce all over everything it’s time to use the washing machine. That’s not work is it? Then the clothes just dry themselves (with a little help from being put in or on the drier, radiators or a clothes line, remember to wash the bird poo off that last one first) and finally that most relaxing of tasks, the ironing. Radio on and off we go. A big pile takes an hour of time and I’m quick.
        Watch TV did you say?
        I’m too busy working.

  9. Lord Blagger
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Some people work for nothing.

    The state on the other hand, takes money and offers nothing in return.

    e.g The rich and fuel allowance. It’s just one of the examples. Pay 50% tax for 40 years on a large income. Then when it comes to getting a little of it back, f-off, you’re scum, you’re rich.

    End result, not surprising the rich, and the middle class have cottoned on they have been defrauded.

    The state is the ‘something for nothing’ problem in society.

    Then wait and find out what the working class do when they find out that their NI, if invested, would have given a 560,000 fund at retirement. The state offers a 130,000 pound state pension, that it won’t pay.

    It won’t pay it because its part of the 5,010 bn liability that has been hidden off the books.

  10. iain gill
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    doubt the sums for nappys works out like that. when you see how cheap economy disposables are. factor in the detergent and electric of washing. and so on. never seen fabric nappies on sale in recent years. do the sums or you will look out of touch.

    • Libertarian
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      Sometimes Iain a quick Google would save yourself looking silly

      The Go Real nappy information service estimates it costs between £50 and £270 to kit out your baby with a basic set of reusable nappies (depending on the type of nappy you choose) plus around £1 a week to wash them – saving you around £500 compared with the market-leading disposable nappy. Savings will be even greater if the nappies are used for a second child

      • Iain Gill
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

        i am a father with children in nappys i am not completely stupid, i am well able to do the sums myself

        its 1.50 for 20 basic nappys in my local supermarket, washing and drying 20 nappys would cost a fair amount in electric/water/detergent

        to say nothing of the more obvious fact that THE GOVERNMENT has forced builders up and down the land to build propertys for folk to live in with neither the space to hang clothes to dry or to fit a dryer.

        to say nothing of the extra soiling of clothes and consequent washing as fabric nappys leak a lot more to the childs trousers and so on.

        so in my view the cost analysis is somewhat different in real life

        • libertarian
          Posted January 4, 2013 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

          Er the cost analysis is there in black and white.

          Fine you find it more convenient to use disposables, me too when I had young kids, doesn’t mean that JR was wrong about the costs as evidenced from the analysis I showed you.

          I didn’t understand you bit about drying are you saying you don’t wash any clothes as there’s nowhere to dry them?

          • Iain Gill
            Posted January 6, 2013 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

            cost analysis by a entirely biased source is like listening to ed balls for info on the economy. wear and tear on washing machine, and the constant noise of the washing machine being on all the time, pretty much make disposables a no brainer for everyone.

      • uanime5
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

        You can also make saving if you use the nappies to clean the floors with once the children are older.

      • Bazman
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

        You can’t just put a dirty nappy in a washing machine can you? As a child with younger siblings I remember a bucket full of nappies soaking first and stinking like hell. A company doing the washing is not a bad idea if cost effective and in your area too. Might be like supermarket clothes for children though. You can get them in bundles off E Bay, not very good and often just better to go to the supermarket and dispose of them afterwards.

  11. Tony
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Happy New Year John!

    Humans have a variety of wants: hunger, thirst, happiness, etc. Work is something they do to meet those wants. Shopping for food and eating are both components of addressing hunger.

    Trade is an efficiency gain from specialization. It is more efficient for a community to have a cobbler making shoes than for everyone to make their
    own. The cobbler then sells shoes to the butcher to get meat. Making shoes is the most efficient way for a cobbler to feed himself.

    Beyond that, most categorizations of work (trade) seem to have been invented to facilitate protectionism, patronage, and/or taxation.

    It’s very hard to measure GPS well everyone’s wants are being met, so we seem to have ended up with GDP as a proxy. The problem with everyone’s obsession with GDP is they are now fixated with the number and have lost sight of what they are actually trying to achieve, which is for everyone to be able to satisfy their wants as efficiently as possible.

    We have in fact reached the stage where governments are trying to force feed populations whatthey think they want, rather than helping them get on with it themselves.

    • Tony
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      That should say “very hard to measure HOW well”


  12. oldtimer
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    You make valid points about the nature of “work”. I have been fortunate that throughout most of my working life I “worked” in paid jobs that I found intensely interesting and on occasiosn even enjoyable. At times thay have also often been extremely frustrating and sometimes even downright alarming – usually involving terrorist threats in foreign parts. Typically it was a six day, occassionally seven day, “working” week. In semi-retirement I put a lot effort into advisory “work” that was relatively low paid and into unpaid charitable work. I did this because I thought it was worthwhile, I found it interesting, thought I had something useful to contribute (relevant experience) and my retirement income enabled me to do so.

    Semi-retirement also provided the first real opportunity for extended leisure breaks. On the other hand I find house “work” and garden “work” required to maintain everything in good order to be extremely tedious though I try to do my share! For others, though, gardening is a very fulfilling activity.

  13. Conrad Jones (Cheam)
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    For many people, over the last forty years it now takes TWO salaries to pay the mortgage. It’s not a case of people doing work becasue they enjoy it (though many do as you rightly say), it is out of necessity and an indication that our standard of living has actually declined dramatically in relation to our disposable income.

    People buy cheaper mass produced foods, cheaper mass produced clothes, Electronic goods have reduced in price and many electrical goods have reduced in quality.

    The Government has actively pushed Businesses move their manufacturing operations to cheaper Labour Forces outside the Country (Dyson springs to mind), through high Taxes and other Work Related Costs. The “Pull” effect has been Countries – such as China; who do not protect people in the Work environment as well as the UK.

    Although we have more manufactured white goods (Dishwashers, Washing Machines, Microwave Ovens, …) in the Home, this does not mean that we are better off as Housing Costs have escalated along with Energy Costs. Food is less fresh and more Food Production more centralised, which has reduced the number of Local Family Farms who are more environmentally friendly thatn the big Agriculture Businesses located around the World (some in Third World Countries).

    We have evolved a System that is exactly the opposite of what is needed. Producing mass produced crops half way around the World, then transporting that to Western Countries requires the maximum amount of Oil. Oil is a Finite Quantity, like Gold; FIAT Money can be produced infinitum and has given the illusion of wealth and hidden the fact that our Salaries have reduced in real terms, over the last Forty Years.

    One of the best periods of Growth and Stability was the period from 1870 to 1914, when the United States used the classic Gold Standard. There was no Central Bank and Trade between Nations was stable and self stabilising wihout a Communist Style Central Bank Regime. After the Federal Reserve hoved into view the Dollar started losing value. Wars got bigger, starvation and chaos got worse and yet we still get on our prayer mats and Face our Central Banks as if they are the ALL knowing centres of Wisdom. The people who work in the Central Banks are – no doubt; intelligent and well meaning but the System they are forced to work in is not.

    • Conrad Jones (Cheam)
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 10:06 am | Permalink

      I include Mervyn King in my “well meaning” description of people who work in Central Banks but emphatically exclude the proposed new Governor Mark Carney as “well meaning”.

      Mark Carney is an entirely different breed. Based on the record of other well placed Ex-Goldman sachs employees it is a easy prediction to make that Mark Carney will not improve the UK economy if he becomes Governor.

      Inflation will increase, interest rates will eventually get out of control, the ratings agencies will downgrade UK Treasury Bonds, and unemployment and Taxes will increase to the point where the Government will have to devalue the Pound in order to increase Exports and make Imports more Expensive as the only means available to maintain some level of GDP stability.

      GDP = C + I + G + (X – M)

      The Formula for a Currency War.

    • A different Simon
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

      Conrad ,

      Well put .

      I think that part of the reason this situation has evolved is that politicians have insulated themselves and state workers from the outcome of their actions by guaranteeing their standard of living until death through defined benefits pensions etc .

      A good start would be to move everyone into the same boat so politicians and state workers interests were realigned with everyone else’s .

      Only then might they start to get it .

    • Conrad Jones (Cheam)
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

      I couldn’t find a study of Debt so succinctly articulated in the United Kingdom but was very happy to find a lecture which was filmed in Berkeley University in the United States.

      Professor Elizabeth Warren provides some clarity as to what has happened to the disposable income (which could equally apply to the UK) of the average family.

      • A different Simon
        Posted January 4, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        Conrad ,

        Thanks for forwarding the link to the excellent lecture delivered by Elizabeth Warren .

        She very effectively demonstrates how the more people enter the job market , the lower gross wages become but that costs rise .

        I love the way that she points out how the move from one to two income families should have been accompanied by increased affluence but has actually lead to the opposite .

        Would like to here what she has to say about globalisation .

        I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that the move to dual income families has reduced wages as there is not an infinite amount of real work and increased supply of workers is bound to push down the price (wages) .

  14. David
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Work is something that someone else will pay us to do (work that benefits them)
    or will cost us to get someone else to do (work that benefits us).
    Raising your children is therefore work but not work that benefits others and therefore not something the state should pay.

  15. Rebecca Hanson
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    One of the issues we face is that people who are on benefits often do a great deal of valuable work in the community – caring for people and fixing things.

    Although unpaid caring commitments can be suffocating in that they restrict your physical freedom, they are quite the opposite of being suffocating in other ways because the person engaging with them has substantial professional freedom and responsibility in that they can choose how to carry out their duties and they are engaging with those duties because they believe they are in some way necessary or important.

    Unfortunately many of the paid jobs on offer in society are not necessary or of any value to society and, as a society, we would be better off if they did not exist. Consider, for example, high pressure sales jobs such as those so often featuring on Watchdog, or some of the telesales roles that we know are damaging rather than constructive for society. Consider the kinds of competitive commercial jobs which are about destroying other people or their livelihoods in the interests of your own organisation when you know society would be better if your organisation did not exist and the people/organisations you are destroying were not under attack from you. Consider the lawyer who makes lots of money from defending criminals from paying money they owe to decent, honest and needy people (who those criminals have made needy).

    Making the transition between voluntary work and the kind of jobs I’ve described above is something many people cannot successfully do because they are too aware of the wider consequences of their actions. It makes them psychologically unwell to try. Should we be putting huge pressure on them to make that transition as we currently are doing?

    • alan jutson
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Permalink


      In my experience it is usually those who work or who are retired who do most of the unpaid charitable work in our area.

      The voluntary charitable organision to which I have belonged for the past 22 years, has never had an application to join from anyone who was out of work.

      I speak as someone who in the past has been Membership Secretary for a 10 year period.

      • uanime5
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

        Where I volunteer there are a few unemployed, young people who are helping in order to have something to put on their CV. Unfortunately for most young people they have no idea which places want volunteers or what sort of volunteers they want.

        • Rebecca Hanson
          Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

          I’m particular interested in strategies we can use at a local level not just to connect people with opportunities to contribute to society and/or develop their skills but to support people through the process of engaging with those opportunities.

          I’m not just interested in job seekers, I’m interested in people in all situations and especially those with potential leadership qualities.

          • alan jutson
            Posted January 4, 2013 at 8:21 am | Permalink


            There are already hundreds of charitable organisations both local and National that can do with extra help already.

            The Local Authorities have lists, newspapers have press reports, local libraries are a source of information as is the web.
            Charity shops are in every town as are Lions Clubs , Rotary, Roundtable, Inner wheel, Macmillan, etc etc.

            National charities, Oxfam, Cancer Research, Water aid, Christian Aid, Salvation Army, etc etc.

            Local Hospitals have friends of organisations, who run cafe’s, volunteer visiting, etc.

            Then there are Cubs, Scouts, Guides, Cadets, sports clubs, Swimming clubs.

            On top of all of these are individual charitable causes, usually for children.

            If someone really wants to help out, it is not difficult to make contact.

            Voluntary organisations need workers, not talkers.

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted January 4, 2013 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

            I’m interested in particular in things like linking up empty-nesters with young families under stress. Linking up mentors with people who are attempting difficult things and so on.

          • Monty
            Posted January 4, 2013 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

            Rebecca, how about this idea: Sherpas. To act as guides to people, especially youngsters, who are keen to get into the working world, but lacking in confidence.The Sherpa would be a recently retired worker, just someone who understands the ways of the working world, and has the confidence and the initiative to keep the youngster on the right tracks.
            The new entrant would be accompanied at work, by the sherpa. Full time at first, for at least the first 4 weeks. Then maybe one day a week for a while. That would tail off as the newcomer gains in confidence and ability. But the sherpa would remain available as a mentor and guide on an as-needed basis, for a year.
            Employers would have to go along with it, but they might like it. They would be getting a new recruit who has already met the standards required by the sherpa. There would be no compulsion for the sherpas to take on candidates with bad attitudes. And the learning curve of the new recruit would be faster. The employer would have to cover the liability insurance for the sherpa, but no more than that. The sherpa would be mentoring, not working per-se.
            I will be retired within the next five years, and I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to do for my own project. That’s what I would like to do.

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

      “People who are on benefits often do a great deal of valuable work in the community – caring for people and fixing things.”

      Indeed some do but alas even more do nothing constructive at all.

  16. Magnolia
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    All work would be easier if we could move our families around without being taxed for it.
    Taxes on moving house are a big drain and chain families and the elderly to their homes unnecessarily.
    If every school were a good one and welcomed new members then children would be less upset and the parents less worried when the family moves because of jobs.
    Housework is labouring, even with our wonderful white machines. Homemaking is a labour of love and/or duty. It’s a lot of hard work.
    I simply don’t believe that children bring themselves up well when they are away from at least one of their parents, or a reasonable substitute, during their formative years.
    It often works well for one parent to ease off with the career while children are growing up while the other slogs up the pay/career ladder to earn the money to pay for it all.
    It would be helpful if more of the lower paid could bring a family up again on one wage even if they have to be frugal.
    The economy and paid work will not come right unless the society problems are also corrected. People are often just doing their best but the politicians seem to view them as tax machines to be milked and that is destroying our family structures and creating an individualistic and selfish mindset which is only consumer and pleasure orientated.
    There used to be jobs for life with final salary pensions. We had strong institutions and families which held together.
    There’s not much left now to give structure to people’s lives.
    I think society is held together now by very tenuous threads.
    That bodes ill for our economy.

    • uanime5
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

      People are often just doing their best but the politicians seem to view them as tax machines to be milked and that is destroying our family structures and creating an individualistic and selfish mindset which is only consumer and pleasure orientated.

      Given that this isn’t happening in other countries with high tax rates it can’t be due to high tax rates. If anything the high levels of income disparity is causing this problem.

  17. Acorn
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Yes, yes JR, I see your vision of the future, a Brave New World. The population will be unified under the State Monopoly Executive, an eternally peaceful, stable society in which voting and elections will be finally recognized as irrelevant. Goods and resources will be plentiful, because the population will be permanently limited by the Border Agency and everyone is happy. Natural reproduction will be done away with and children will be created, ‘decanted’ and raised in much cheaper NHS Hatcheries and Conditioning Centers, where they will be divided into five castes (further split into ‘Plus’ and ‘Minus’ members) and designed to fulfill predetermined positions within the social and economic strata of the lower 99% of the State.

    Fetuses will be chosen to become members of the highest 1% caste, ‘Alpha’, they will be allowed to develop naturally while maturing to term in “decanting bottles”. Fetuses chosen to become members of the lower castes (‘Beta’, ‘Gamma’, ‘Delta’, ‘Epsilon’) will be subjected to chemical and psychological interference at the Ministry of Education; to cause arrested development in intelligence or physical growth. These will happily carry out the menial tasks in society without complaint. A weekly lottery will allow many to spend fun time as Cabinet Ministers.

    PS. To make this work, the coalition will have to change its drug policy and get DWP to distribute an equivalent for Soma. I expect IDS has already got that in hand. (With apologies to Wiki and Mr A Huxley).

    Reply : This is the opposite of the free society I seek.

    • Bazman
      Posted January 4, 2013 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

      The caste system is alive and well in Britain and many on this site are great supporters of it. That 18 year old does not want to take that job when he sees many much more dim teenagers of his age getting everything on a plate due to their background and nothing else. Daddy setting his son up for a cushy life in a piss easy job with no health risks. If you think it’s about jealousy you are simplistic and deluded. The doffing cap days are over for many young people and I don’t blame them, they have higher expectations though often unrealistic are not going to, as they see it, waste their lives slogging away in a dead end job for the same. Self respect? It’s over rated.

      • Edward
        Posted January 4, 2013 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

        Yes Baz, and these 18 year olds can certainly afford to be picky as to what they fancy doing, with us mugs working, paying our taxes which help give them a fourtnightly handout and a free flat.
        Cushy, sorted.

  18. Manof Kent
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    And when taxes go soaring ,as they did in Labour’s supertax phase,the so called affluent take leave to re-decorate their own house rather than work and pay a painter.

    • Bazman
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      Well anyone can paint can’t they? Many of the affluent believe there is no skill or work in anything. Expensive house decorated by an amateur does not make sense.

    • Libertarian
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      Taxes under the Tories have ALREADY soared.

      The worker on an average UK salary of £26,500 pays 40% of that in taxes. Income tax, NI, Council Tax, Fuel duty, Alcohol/tobacco duty, VAT, stamp duty, Car tax, Insurance premium levy, betting tax, TV/radio licence.

      By the way I haven’t included CGT, Inheritance tax, Share dealings stamp duty, business rates, employers NI or other taxes that the average person may or may not pay.

      All of which means that from your £26,500 you get to give the government £10.600 leaving you with £15,900. They then let it be known that Starbucks or someone similar quite legally didn’t pay much corporation tax and get the population to fixate on a scapegoat instead of questioning how come they take so much of EVERYONE’S money

    Posted January 3, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Permalink


    Your daily diary of today 3 Jan 2013 set me thinking. I am retired I get paid a pension so I do not require to work for money. In fact I work most days for most of the day as an unpaid charity worker. I enjoy this work, I do it because I want to, it helps keep me alert sane etc. and also helps some person who is in need of the end product of my work.

    I remember a situation probably 30 years ago when I was seeing off a colleague who was retiring and I asked him if he had enjoyed his working life, he said he hated it and was happy that he was retiring. I thought this was very sad, because most of us work for at least 40 years, so it should be something we enjoy doing.

    I am sure we are all aware of the young boy’s dream of driving a steam train when he grows up, if we enjoy our work we will do a better job and certainly get some satisfaction. I think this should start in the schools where we must show jobs and therefore work to children

    Can we devise a way in which people are encouraged to enjoy their work and therefore be much happier; we would all get the benefit from their labours? Work is always performed better if the worker enjoys what he is doing.Work will not be hard if you are in the right job.

    Over to you

    Reply: Indeed, it is much better if you enjoy some of your job. Studying or training so you can do an interesting job brings more rewards than mere money. It is about enthusing and motivating young people. We adults need to explain to them how life is better paid and more worthwhile if you train to do something you enjoy doing.

    • Libertarian
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      But this is entirely the problem. The left have demonized work, they attempt to paint it as akin to slavery. The “rights” of workers to NOT work are the main focus of most employment legislation these days.

      The left demonize all employers, try to claim that business owners only wish to pay the lowest possible wages and other such blatant nonsense.

      In my experience, as an entrepreneur I’m asked to lecture school, college and university students on the world of work , I’m finding attitudes are beginning to polarize. It is fast becoming that those with ambition and desire believe that they will work for themselves and or start a business and the rest may or may not work depending on what’s on offer.

      The attitude of the young man on the radio phone in the other day who said he wasn’t prepared to get a job as everything the job centre offered him involved him having to get up by 8am !!! is sadly becoming endemic

      • alan jutson
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 6:02 pm | Permalink


        Successive governments have demonised the self employed for a couple of decades now.
        Given that self employment is usually the first step to running a business.
        Given that small businesses (combined) employ more people than larger Companies.
        The Government has and is continuing to shooting itself in the foot.

        Anyone ever noticed over the years that the younger generation now want to tend to gravitate towards talking jobs, but jobs where measurement of competence is difficult, as opposed to actually doing work which can be measured, and for which you are responsible.

        Is this the influence of a poor quality University education, or even worse, a complete lack of ability to be meaningfully productive..

        • libertarian
          Posted January 4, 2013 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

          Agree totally Alan

          One of the biggest political disasters of all time was the last governments implementation of IR35 potentially killing 200,000 small businesses. Of course the present lot have done nothing to fix the problem.

          I agree far more should be done to encourage self employment

      • uanime5
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

        Try working for a supermarket, fast food restaurant, or any store selling things as cheaply as possible. You’ll find that employers only want to pay as little as possible and will do so as long as immigrants and the desperate are prepared to work for a pittance.

        What’s wrong with not wanting to get up at 8am? Many jobs are available in the afternoon, evening, or at night. I once worked at a job where I could come in at 10am as long as I worked until 6pm.

        • libertarian
          Posted January 4, 2013 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

          I have worked in the kind of places you say. I started my working life in a factory earning in a week what the supermarket worker earns in an hour. No they don’t want to pay as little as possible there are 1,000s of workers who work for super markets, restaurants and stores who earn vastly more than minimum wage.

          There is nothing wrong with shift work, there IS something wrong with NOT working and taking the money from all those minimum wage earners who do work

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

      Indeed one cannot now incentivise, with pay and threats of the sack,( due to tax and employment laws) so you have to create a children’s playground for staff and, somehow, get some useful work out of them.

  20. Pleb
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Remploy gave disabled ex servicemen self respect and life chances. This coalition closed it down. All these men are now just sat at home on benefits. Madness.

    • Libertarian
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      Totally agree

      Then they firehose money at nothing in particular and claim its funding start up businesses.

    • Credible
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 5:26 pm | Permalink


    • alan jutson
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 6:04 pm | Permalink


      Very sad, but thats what you get when everything comes down to money, and Accountants run any sort of business.

      • lifelogic
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

        But most thing do indeed come down to money, such is life. Give me accountants and engineers any day – rather than lawyers and politicians.

        • alan jutson
          Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:26 pm | Permalink


          “Most things come down to money”

          Yes they do, but not everything, and not everytime, sometimes the social need plays a part in the bigger picture, as long as its not abused and flogged to death.

          Agree about Lawyers.

        • Credible
          Posted January 4, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink

          “Most things come down to money”

          You can have all the money in the world and you will still get ill, still get depressed, still get lonely, still have to deal with circumstances out of your control. You will get more anxious to keep what you own, find genuine loyalty more difficult to find, lose pleasure in simple things, think you are more important than you are and then you will die.

  21. Simonro
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Most people cannot ‘decide to work more’.

    Many have ‘sole employer’ clauses in their contracts, many have child care responsibilities that (at £10 / hour for 2 children, excluding meals) would cost more than any extra they would earn. Many are waged rather than paid hourly. Many are willing to work extra, but cannot find the extra work.

    Before the minimum wage was introduced, there were people I knew working over 60 hours a week for less than half my – then a recent graduate – salary for a 35 hour week. Today, there are plenty of minimum wage earners who would have to work a 275 hour week (that’s almost 40 hours a day…) to reach a lowly back bencher’s salary, before travel & expense allowances.

    Predominantly, people lucky enough to choose to spend on luxuries like cleaners are doing it so they can enjoy more ‘unproductive’ awake time, not so they can spend more hours working.

    • Libertarian
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Your post is total nonsense.

      I see 100’s of employment contracts, I have rarely seen sole employer clauses and never in lower paid more menial jobs only ever in higher paid creative or professional work.

      Waged v hourly rate is completely immaterial

      Your maths is rubbish too, in order to reach the same salary as an MP someone on minimum wage would have to work 160 hours not 275.

      However why fixate on minimum wage? If you want to earn the same wage as a back bench MP become a plumber or electrician and earn more. You could retrain as a vehicle technician or a top chef. There are all kinds of things you can do to earn more than minimum wage.

      The one thing there isn’t a shortage of is part time evening and weekend work should you wish to do it. However unless its for a short term thing like saving for a holiday or new car why not invest in yourself and improve your skills and earning potential?

      • Simonro
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

        1. Sole employer is very common for the sort of employee who might employ a cleaner, and for the sort of trainee who hopes to become one of the sort of employee who might employ a cleaner. Lawyers, accountants, sales and marketing, the ‘creative’ side of IT, researchers. In fact just about everybody I know…

        2. An hourly paid worker can (in theory) earn more for working longer hours at one job. A waged worker must fit any second job around the first – have to work late to finish something? Bang goes the after work bar job.

        3. An 18 year old earns much less on the minimum wage than a 21 year old. 160 hours a week is still quite a lot.

        4. There are very few positions open for ‘top chefs’, by definition. Other well paid skilled work, plumber, electrician, gas fitter, require apprenticeships. These are becoming harder to get as well trained foreign workers who are happy (I assume) to remain unqualified to sign off a piece of work fill those jobs.

        This is happening further up the ladder too – in fact the offshoring of middle rank professional roles is leading to a shortage of British people with the necessary experience and skills to fill positions just above them.
        For those with the right CV, wages are rising, but those with the right CV are increasingly not British.

        5. Part time evening and weekend jobs have a huge turnover of staff, which is why it looks like there are lots of them.

        6. I concentrate on minimum and just above minimum wages because it is earners in this group that are currently seeing their wealth decrease in real terms by the greatest percentage thanks to current government’s inability to do their job and manage the economy. Also, it’s the group that John always seems to forget exists, with his tales of tax efficiency and savings.

        • libertarian
          Posted January 4, 2013 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

          1) Make your mind up. You implied sole employer prevented lower paid from doing a second job and then told me that its mostly the higher paid who have it in their contracts !

          2) As I said just because you’re hourly paid doesn’t mean you stop when you feel like it

          3) An 18 year old is unlikely to be an MP so it kind of makes a nonsense of your comparison, 160 hours is obviously not possible or desirable but you aren’t making a sensible comparison

          4) Totally wrong, there is ample work about for top chef’s by definition, anyone really good at their work is in demand! Training in all those skills is available at any college, apprenticeships are available and whilst one or two unscrupulous employers may hire someone unqualified it is not a viable proposition.

          I agree to some extent there are skills shortages in a number of areas, however this is almost entirely due to people not being willing to learn a trade

          5) Sorry youre just wrong there is a massive number of jobs available part time and yes turnover is high that’s because people don’t do them for long as they are just a means to a temporary end, ie saving for college, a holiday a car etc

          6) The minimum wage earners are hit by the high cost of public spending. VAT, Income tax, national ins, council tax, fuel duty etc etc. Unless the public sector vastly reigns in spending they will continue to be hit hard. I do agree though that better tax efficiency would help this group, I believe that earnings up to £12k pa ought to be exempt from income tax/NI altogether and that VAT should be no more than 10%

          Don’t forget it was Labour and Gordon Brown who removed the 10p tax band

      • uanime5
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

        Being waged means they are paid per day or per project, rather than per hour. Thus they cannot increase their wages by working more hours because their pay will be the same.

        You’re truly deluded if you believe that average plumbers, electricians, vehicle technicians, or a top chefs earn more than an MP’s base salary of £65,738. The cost of an MP is even higher when you take into account their allowances for housing, travel, and staff.

        As the Job Centre doesn’t pay for people to retrain unless you happen to have a lot of money most people can’t afford retrain for another career.

        Part time evening and weekend work is almost as rare as other types of work because most employers don’t want to work evenings and weekends.

        • A different Simon
          Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

          Excluding abuses and fraud , MP’s allowances are surely for legitimate expenses connected with their work and therefore should not be considered pay .

          I probably wouldn’t see it that way if I was still spending thousands of pounds of taxed income to travel to an office .

          Pension entitlements are pay though. It is a matter of debate how much anyone with a defined benefit pension is paid .

          Even if people were able to work longer or extra it wouldn’t do any good . Economic rents would just rise to relieve them of any gains as Ricardo pointed out .

        • libertarian
          Posted January 4, 2013 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

          Er do try and pay attention. We were talking about the possibilities of a SECOND job.

          You are deluded if you think these trades people earn minimum wage. The average salary for a senior qualified motor technician is £30-40k

          Depending on what part of country a self employed plumber will charge between £20 and £35 per hour ( thats upto £70 k pa)

          The cost of a college course is very low and fees assistance and loans are available

          There is a MASSIVE amount of part time and evening work available as this is the BUSIEST times for restaurants, grocery stores, call centres and other similar places of work

      • Bazman
        Posted January 4, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

        Plumber and electricians on 65 k a year? Yeah! Right. How many, where and how many hours? You read The Daily Mail to much.

        • A different Simon
          Posted January 4, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

          Bazman ,

          Another question to ask is “when” .

          Go back to 1998 and there was an acute shortage of plumbers in the South East which lead to some self employed plumbers making those sort of figures and more 14 years ago .

          • Bazman
            Posted January 5, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

            Highly unlikely even then. Maybe a plumbing company. Even one plumber working twelve hours a day skimming the easy, but profitable work would struggle to make 65k. Think about it. Daily Mail story.

  22. Credible
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    The reality is that for many families in many parts of the country it is not possible to buy a house unless there are two incomes. (In fact the same is true in general for anyone wanting to buy a home). Then paying for childcare is not a matter of choice, it’s a matter of necesity and it is becoming increasingly unaffordable. It can be considered a huge additional tax burden on working families along with the cost of heating (since most don’t chop down trees or run their own generators) along with the cost of transport, water and communications. Now I don’t think any reasonable person would argue that these things shouldn’t come at some cost, but the rises in the cost of these essentials compared to the incomes of ordinary people is taking an ever increasing chunk out of the household budgets of those who work.

    • Bazman
      Posted January 4, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      As well as this a cabinet of Tory millionaires wants to pit those on reasonable wages against those who are not or out of work. Cameron’s cronies portray anyone who qualifies for benefits as a scrounger and a sponger of hard working taxpayers ignoring the fact that six out of ten claimants are in work, but not earning enough to get by. If wages and pensions were enough to live on there would be no need to pay tax credits, but they aren’t. The right them peddles the lie that thousands of families are ‘trapped’ in dependency. Ram it.

      • Edward
        Posted January 4, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

        Tax credits can be paid to families where over £50k a year is coming in so dont give me the “starving poor” rubbish.
        Tax credits were a ruse dreamt up by Gordon brown to create a huge client state and a nice core of dependent loyal Labour voters.
        He could have instead cut taxes for low income families and given tax breaks for singles with kids to pay for child care and ete etc
        Its net pay thats low and thats why tax credits are now the monster they are.
        Reduce tax and NI for the lower paid and reduce dependency on tax credits but that would set people free from their dependency on the the State and Labour wouldnt like that at all.

        • Bazman
          Posted January 5, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

          Many cannot get enough hours to pay tax and national insurance so don’t try that one add in child care and work does not pay enough to live on. Not helped by ‘flexible’ working practices. The starving poor from all backgrounds are very much on the rise and this can be seen by the number of food banks. Pretending will not help you. Gorden Brown introduced tax credits to help millions of the working poor out of poverty. He used public spending for the befit of the public. The Tories and their fantasists want Britons to feel guilty and feebly endure its abolition as they hate welfare and the state so a welfare state is an absolute anathema. Ram it.

          • Edward
            Posted January 6, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

            Tax credits are a way for the state to keep us under their control, lowering tax and ni for the lower paid and raising the start point for paying tax and ni would be better.
            If you offer people free food there will be a queue

          • Bazman
            Posted January 6, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

            As I have pointed out the poor do not earn enough to pay tax and as for free food causing queues and state control. You will have to do better than that.

      • libertarian
        Posted January 4, 2013 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

        Tell you what go call a plumber or electrician and see how much they charge you!!!

        The day rate for a new build plumber or electrician is £200 per day

        • Bazman
          Posted January 5, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

          Maybe you should point this out and tell them the minimum wage is six quid an hour and dole is seventy quid a week. They would have a strike you understood.

  23. Barbara
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Before retiring completely to look after a disabled husband, my time was clearly marked out each week, to avoid being over worked and running round like a headless chicken. Once the caring kicked in, my persoanal time was zero. Between shopping, washing and ironing, gardening and cleaning the house, and caring there was no time left. That’s how its been until I fell down the stairs and broke my ankle on both sides, now we were really in trouble.
    You don’t realise the extent of your caperblities until this happens, and how you will cope. We were offered from the hospital, who wanted rid of me as quick as possible, wanted the bed; a porta potty, mobile trolley for catering, and seat perch to do jobs on, while the foot was denied being put on the floor for 12 weeks and in plaster. Difficult time I can tell you, meanwhile as a main carer he had to be taken care of as well. Nothing was offered, none whatsoever; so all depended on my daughter, who works full time. My son too, works full time. They could not have time off, and jobs are valuable these days so that was out of the question. How did we manage. We struggled. But we did it, so time for me as been largely surviving with no help in a crisis. 6 weeks sleeping downstairs and using a porta potty, really brings it home what needs and time really are. The children therefore paid for a lift to be installed, for me short term and hubby long term. We asked for financial help, not to pay for it and were refused. Yes we are taxpayers and worked over pension age. So in this country time is seems is mostly for the idle, and for those who have contributed nothing. Nothings changed then. Lib Dems appear to be trying to perpetuate the situation.

    • uanime5
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

      Did you try asking for a community nurse to visit you or request the support of a social worker?

  24. Rupert Butler
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood

    Perhaps in your piece tomorrow you will develop a category which you do not mention today. This is work that is unpaid – vol;untary rather than slavery, needless to say. I do quite a lot of this, as school governor and as an “Activist” in my Conservative association. I cannot readily tell you why I do it, but I know it is not primarily benevolent – it is intended to get me things I want.

    In the one case, it is because the state school system is not producing good enough results and I hope to make a small difference. Curiously, where before 2010 governors were incidental to an increasingly ponderous bureaucracy second-guessing head teachers, now Mr Gove sides overtly with those few excellent head teachers for whom governors are actually a nuisance. The new Academy programme needs governors as trustees and company directors, but our government does almost nothing to encourage governors to play those necessary roles.

    In the other case, I want a better government than I have been subject to until now. Only a Conservative government could introduce the improvements that I want (improvements that you hint at in your blogs). As I get older, I become increasingly desperate at the feebleness of our party leadership – another chance to straighten up our economy is slipping through their fingers right now. Add to that, not only am I not not paid to work for my party, but I have to shrug off the assertions (no doubt directed at me personally, if they knew I existed) by our leaders that my party is nasty and that I am a head banging turnip-taleban. On top of that, quite unnecessarily and with lots of futile excuses, our voluntary party organisation is going to the dogs and our conferences are no more use to the parrty in government than it is to us the voluntary workers.

    Grumble Grumble Grumble !

  25. Bernard Juby
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps, instead of asking, “What is work” we should be looking at it from the “What is employment” point of view?
    Thankfully we have not (quite) reached the stage where employers are forced to take on employees – although once haveing taken the quatum leap of employing some-one there are many, potentially costly, obtacles to getting rid of them. We have not yet reached the “Atlas Shrugged” syndrome.
    A potential employer is not altruistic (although some exist) but takes on a member of staff in order to increase the profitability of his (usually) small business.
    If and when your debate moves on to this aspect of work then I will have more to say! You have been warned!

    • uanime5
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

      In Communist countries they used to force state owned companies to employ everyone who was unemployed so that the state didn’t need to provide anyone with unemployment benefits. The companies weren’t profitable but everyone had a job (though they had no motivation to work as there was no competition).

      If you employ someone on a temporary contract then the obstacles to firing them are pretty much eradicated. Especially if you have the option to end the contact early.

      • Bernard Juby
        Posted January 4, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

        Agreed but many of our State-run establishments seem to take on un-neccessary people.
        A temporary contract would have to be very short and an employee who turns out to be no good at the job is then a hanger-on until their contract expires.

        • uanime5
          Posted January 4, 2013 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

          I once had a temporary contract that last one day and the next day I would get a new contract. So if my employer wanted to fire me they only had to pay me for the day I was working and not renew my contract the next day.

          Just how short do you want these contracts to be?

          • Bernard Juby
            Posted January 5, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

            How big was the company This is rare in a small or micro one.

        • Bazman
          Posted January 5, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

          You are living in a fantasy world. A contract with one weeks notice is all that is required. The last company I worked for had this and one guy was self employed by the hour. There was only five of us including the boss/owner. What you want is no contract and no rights.

      • Bazman
        Posted January 4, 2013 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

        It’s the right to discard them that is wanted. You, you, and you. An hour at a time with no minimum wage health & safety or contract whatsoever whilst expecting the state to pick up the tab and subsidise the company in many other ways such as tax breaks and paying for infrastructure. A free ride no less. Inverse scrounging and communism for the rich is the core ideology. The workers would not be doing anything without us! We are here to help them. They don’t need that sort of ‘help’ that for sure.

        • Edward
          Posted January 5, 2013 at 12:04 am | Permalink

          The question is Baz,….do the current employment policies actually do any real favours for the UK workers?
          Jobs are being rapidly exported away to other countries.
          Rapidly rising EU adult unemployment.
          Over 25% youth unemployment in the EU.
          Over 50% in Spain and Greece, levels unheard of, in my lifetime.
          You keep criticising employers, saying employers should do this and that, but I bet you have never ever, in your life, ever run a business, nor ever in your life have you ever employed anyone.
          Try it, and see how easy you find it balancing rapidly varying incoming customer orders with the staff levels you need.
          I did it for over 25 years and its not as easy nor as profitable as it appears.
          When you are eventually this established model employer, you can pay your staff as much as you feel is proper and give them all the security and rights you feel are correct and then watch as your competition rams it to you….

          • Bernard Juby
            Posted January 5, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

            Current employment policies actually discourage small businesses from taking the plunge and employing some-one.

          • Bazman
            Posted January 5, 2013 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

            I don’t doubt for a second how difficult it is to run a small or medium sizes business or be self employed much easier to get a job. What I mainly rile against is corporate welfare and communism for the rich. These ideas that we can compete with third world countries on labour costs and that somehow we can turn back the clock in advanced western countries is not real and why should anyone accept this?

    • A different Simon
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

      I can tell you what employment is not ; entrepreneurial .

      Our state education system seems to condition people to become so risk averse that the only thing they are good for is becoming worker ants .

      In America the middle classes are entrepreneurial . In the UK they are subservient .

      Bernard , I look forward to hearing what you have to say about employment .

      The idea that it is an employers jobs to administrate pensions and guarantee a level of benefit is outdated . Pensions are a service which should be offered by the state (with no exceptions for it’s own workers) but be beyond the reach of the Govt of the day .

      How does the country build upon the success of white van man ?

      • Bernard Juby
        Posted January 4, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

        In small and micro businesses the owner is very much hands-on. The State expects them to be chief cook and bottle-washer as well as a Jack-of- all laws. Ignorance is no excuse. Horrendous fines and penalties await. Taking on an employee as the business expands is a huge Quantum leap as the whole mass of Employment Law bears down on them. Many books and academic studies have been written about problems facing these businesses. Many of them put in the way by the State. All too often plain common sense has been lost in the process and Civil Courts apply the letter of the law rather than the spirit.
        Too many politicians seem to br in the thrall of big businesses and forget that the bulk of businesses and the employment that goes with them rests with the micros and small end of the spectrum.
        Concentrating on them is the way to get the UK out of the recession.

  26. A different Simon
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    The amount of work that people are expected to do these days and still not make enough to survive shows that along with fiat currency , high house prices and debt , work is just a confidence trick .

    Unless you are a member of the professions working won’t get you anywhere .

    Abraham Lincoln – “Things may come to those who wait…but only the things left by those who hustle.”

    Doug Coughlin character in the film Cocktail (played by Bryan Brown) – “There are workers and there are hustlers. Workers never hustle and hustlers never work”

    I used to be a workaholic . Not any more . There needs to be more than life than work .

    • Libertarian
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

      What a ridiculous set of generalizations.

      There’s more to life than work you say, and I guess you expect ME to work to pay for it for YOU?

      • James&Co
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

        What else do you think money is printed for?

        • Bernard Juby
          Posted January 4, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

          To keep the inflationary bubble alive & well and destroying savings and pensions in the process.

      • A different Simon
        Posted January 3, 2013 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

        You are welcome to work longer hours and pay more tax if you think it is worth your while .

    • Bazman
      Posted January 4, 2013 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      You could add that cannabis does not demotivate. It just shows you that working in a fast food restaurant or other menial job for a idiot boss is not worth turning up for. Ha! Ha!

  27. Monty
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Rebecca Hanson
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink
    One of the issues we face is that people who are on benefits often do a great deal of valuable work in the community

    In my own experience, the opposite holds true. The people in our town who can be relied upon to turn out and support good causes, are almost all busy people with jobs, and those who have retired at the completion of their working lives. It is the people who are time poor, who give their time, effort, and money. That isn’t such a surprise, when you realize that there are some attributes, including self motivation, staying power, patience, which heavily influence both employment and volunteerism. The same set of people are much more likely also to do their own home improvements, grow their own garden produce, bake their own cakes, get the sewing machine out and make their own curtains and soft furnishings.

    As for the time-rich welfare class, they mostly can’t be bothered. To do anything.

    • peter davies
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      So true – if you want something done always ask someone busy.

    • alan jutson
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Permalink


      I thought for the moment my blog comment has been posted incorrectly.

      Agree with every word you say.

      My comment should appear as a reply to Rebecca.

    • uanime5
      Posted January 3, 2013 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

      Well being forced onto workfare, the work programme, and job searching for 30 hours per week does take a lot of people’s time. Also if you spend too much time volunteering each week you lose your benefits because you’re not “available to work”.

      Trying to volunteer without references or any skills is also difficult.

      • Monty
        Posted January 4, 2013 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

        How far down your your excuses list are you now? Must be getting dangerously close to the end because you are well into the stuff-I-don’t-even-believe-myself zone.

    • Bernard Juby
      Posted January 4, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      Except to go down to the Benefits Office every week!

      • uanime5
        Posted January 4, 2013 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

        Most people go fortnightly. It’s very rare to have to go in weekly.

      • Bazman
        Posted January 6, 2013 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        I go to the benefits office every week Bernard in my brand new BMW get paid and then go down the pub to get drunk with my mates and laugh at small business owners paying for all of it. Do you think it’s any other way?!

  28. margaret brandreth-j
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Yes I totally agree..Life is work…. the work we enjoy , the work which passes the time and the work we get paid for. For the sake of communication and understanding that many are out of work , we think on different levels implicitly and realise that an income helps with personal comfort , although there are those who get more pleasure out of denying themselves some creature comforts to help others.
    I am considered a hard worker , yet I could do better, I have had paid help in the past ( and was sneered at ) , there are those who say this or that person neesd to do some proper work ( whatever that means).
    Money money money rules.. You may go on a sporting weekend , come home exhaused with the work and say, yes that was good I enjoyed it , but it may be different if it was a compulsory way to get a living wage.
    I worked exceptionally hard for years playing badminton , wrecked my knees , went through much pain , but if that was employer related , they would get sued. Percepetions are odd things and am glad I studied philosophy for many years,and still do ,yet it holds you back in some ways, for when you think in standpoints and explore what really is involved as we think about some aspects of life and work,communication is limited as those who you communicate with are stuck in mindsets where for example work means paid employment.

  29. Max Dunbar
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    Work that creates a tangible result is usually more satisfying than work in an office. As a trained woodworker I have gained a great deal of satisfaction from the application of my manual skills to various projects. However, the best profits have been generated from property negotiation, not working at the joiner’s bench.
    Manual skills have been underrated in this country. Always the talk has been “get off the tools and get a collar and tie around your neck”. Properly trained, motivated and experienced tradesmen are thin on the ground.

  30. uanime5
    Posted January 3, 2013 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    If someone spends too much time doing paid work he or she will be told to “get a life”, “spend more time with their family”, “take some time off” etc.

    I can’t recall any politicians, employers, or journalists criticising people for working too much. By contrast I can recall all three criticising people for not working enough.

    On a side note in Japan they consider never taking a day’s holiday a badge of honour and in China long working hours are the norm. By contrast in South Korea they used to have long working hours until employers realised that the amount of time it took to do things was increasing to meet the amount of time available, so started throwing people out at about 5pm to encourage them to be more productive.

    By contrast in the Scandinavian countries they have shorter working hours and in Mexico no one ever wants to work overtime (even when it’s paid).

    There is time spent on work for pay. There is time spent on work without pay to look after our homes and families.

    You forgot time spent working because you’re forced to work by the Government (workfare). It has all the misery of working in a dead end job without the salary.

    You end up paying a lot more tax doing this, as you have to pay extra income tax on your higher earnings for daring to work more, and then VAT and other taxes on the bought in goods and services.

    People are paid large amounts of money in the City not because they work so many hours but because they get so much per hour. Getting a high salary does not automatically mean you’ve worked hard or for a large number of hours.

    If the people you hire to do tasks for you earn less than the personal allowance then neither of you be paying any additional taxes. Also most businesses can claim VAT for business expenses, so this has to be offset against the VAT you’ve paid for any goods or services.

    One of the features of our economic growth figures is the economy appears to expand if more people decide to work more and earn more, so they can spend more on help for the home.

    That’s because the Government is taxing more people doing domestic chores for other people. For example if two women both look after their children the Government gets nothing but if the Government makes them be the child minder for the other’s child then the Government has two new child minders they can tax.

    Also Adam Smith warned against doing this as investing in a company will provide you with additional returns, while hiring a servant will result in you constantly losing money. I believe the latter also provides less jobs.

  31. Headhunter
    Posted January 4, 2013 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    I worked out years ago that the dichotomy between work and recreation is false. Both are simply activity and the inverse is sleep. It makes life/work much more fun when you approach things thus. Good blog.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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