Hertz challenges what it is we Value

The Guardian: ‘Unhealthy incomes’

Astonishment at a nurse being paid more than £100,000 points up an outdated idea of value

By Noreena Hertz
Published: 1st December 2008

Shock horror. An NHS nurse has earned £100,000 in a year. Well, it was enough of a shock for it to make it on to the front page of yesterday’s Sunday Times. This would have been fair enough if the tone of the piece had been positive – that finally, at last, nurses are being highly valued for their work.

But it wasn’t. Instead the piece was all about “generous incentive schemes” and big bonuses. The implicit message was clear: it’s bizarre and wrong for nurses to be paid a lot of money.

How anachronistic. At a time during which we as a society are collectively suffering from the greed and misdeeds of tens of thousands of bankers – almost all of whom would have taken home at least £100,000 and many more than 10 times that – shouldn’t we be rejoicing that perhaps at least a few of those people who choose to care for the most vulnerable as a profession might not be going to struggle this Christmas?

The nurse in question seems to have earned £100,000 by, in effect, taking on two jobs – half her income was earned in overtime – and having reached the pinnacle of her profession. So she saves, lives and works incredibly hard. Good for her. But as far as nurses in general are concerned, the majority still earn so little that many have to take on third jobs, and most cannot afford to buy their own home. This is no nurses’ pay bonanza. And it prompts a bigger question: how should we determine what is valuable in society today?

Read the rest of the article on The Guardian website