I have a Cornishman mate who, on completion of a task well done by himself or others, declares it a "proper job".
It was, indeed, a proper job, then that Kristine Bartlett was declared the 2018 New Zealander of the Year. Her self-imposed task was to fight for pay equity in the aged-care sector, rightly claiming it had been discriminated against simply on the basis of it being a female-dominated workforce.
It was a "proper job" achievement in a sector dominated by a raft of people doing proper jobs i.e. working in hard-graft, hands-on occupations and vocations of real and tangible benefit to the wider community.
As we speak, similar resolutions are being sought with regard to realistic midwifery remuneration, and recompense for those caring for family members with disabilities.
A midwifery spokesperson suggested there might be a correlation between midwives leaving the profession in droves and the fact that, when all the peripherals such as travel time and associated pastoral care were factored in, their true remuneration amounted to about half the minimum wage.
The same also applies to that other most crucial of professions – teaching.
We are all very aware of the critical role played by the better teachers in our formative years — not necessarily for just facilitating the dissemination of wodges of information, but more for the less codified discreet mentoring and confidence-building.
Over the course of a career, they help guide and mould thousands of lives — a more proper job is hard to find.
Not so long ago, a secondary teacher's average salary was more or less on a par with a parliamentary backbencher's. These days, the latter's is about four times greater, and similar – if not much greater — ratios apply to a whole raft of amorphous "occupations" in financial and business circles, and in private and public bureaucracies alike.
The lion's share of remuneration has shifted to those not concerned with creating objects and services of real value to fellow citizens, but to those driving systems that simply massage and redistribute existing wealth, creating nothing, but ensuring they personally get to clip the ticket with every tawdry transaction.
No wonder the tentacles of the financial services sector are insinuating every corner of contemporary so-called Western society, where bankers, brokers and traders get to play the ferryman and collect the fare for punting all manner of casino-like operations in derivatives, hedge funds, futures, and the like.
These incestuous operations – involving as they do battalions of corporate lawyers, bogus financial gurus, tax experts endlessly lifting rocks looking for new loopholes, and the like – have constructed a self-perpetuating money-making merry-go-round that's now more profitable to invest in than the manufacturing sector. Or the genuine public professions, for that matter.
Rutger Bregman, an astute Dutch commentator, gives the comparison of a 1968 strike by garbage collectors in New York seeking a living wage, and a 1985 strike by bank employees in Ireland.
Six days into the New York strike and thigh-deep in uncollected trash, city administrators realised just how vital a role garbage personnel played in the city's economy, and declared a state of emergency. The garbage collectors got their raise, and the profession remains a well-remunerated one to this day.
In Ireland, the bank workers' strike locked down 85 per cent of the country's reserves overnight. A few months later, the London Times reported that the "dispute had not had an adverse effect on the economy so far".
Au contraire, the economy actually continued to grow, as it did for the whole six months' duration of the strike. Citizens and players simply substituted their own transaction systems. So much for being a vital industry.
We need governments with guts enough to tax the money-massagers sufficiently to enable satisfactory recompense for those actually doing the "proper jobs".