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Mike's Minute: Is pay transparency all it's cracked up to be?

Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Fri, 17 Nov 2023, 10:20am

Mike's Minute: Is pay transparency all it's cracked up to be?

Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Fri, 17 Nov 2023, 10:20am

One of the weirdest debates of the modern age, and one that doesn’t seem to want to go away, is this business of pay transparency.

It's been back in the headlines once again this week.

In some places in America they have rules and if you don’t comply they fine you. Not surprisingly, it's in the more liberal states like California, which I assume gives you an insight of what the whole idea is all about.

It's essentially communism - by everyone knowing what everyone earns we are all equal and in being equal life is fair.

As part of the push for transparency it is suggested by those in the recruitment game that jobs with advertised salaries attract more applications. It's hardly a surprise, given if you don’t know what you are dealing with, why would you bother?

But in reality the way you get around that is salary bands. You advertise a decent size band and that way it is open to negotiation around experience and skill.

Some in the recruitment game argue a job should come with a salary, not the "person".

How they argue that with a straight face I have no idea. The person who cooked your vindaloo last Friday can cook and is paid to do so, but is he worth the same as Gordon Ramsay? .

So is it the job or the person?

Income is about talent, although not always. In some cases you would struggle to separate out a bus driver, therefore they are paid the same.

Teachers who you can separate out in terms of talent should be paid on talent, but aren't. That is why, in part, our education system is so hopelessly lacking in results.

But many many jobs are not just "jobs". They are endeavours driven by skill, experience and talent and that is why you pay some more than others. And because that is, in part, open to interpretation it is madness to have everyone in on the debate.

The greatest hurdle of all is the human condition. Of course we would love to know what everyone earns. Who wouldn’t?

But, like the card trick, once you know it's ruined. It's ruined because you are furious, or ropeable, or insulted, or devastated, or feel robbed, or elated, or shocked, depending of course on what you have just found out.

Is the person next to you, who is a doofus, getting more than you and if they are what sort of scandal is that? And so it goes.

The lesson is - be careful what you wish for.

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