From this morning’s Creepbook for Business feed (the author’s name removed to save their blushes);
Well, yes but….
Using the same logic, a bus driver should receive about a quarter of the salary of the pilot of a 777 passenger aircraft.
The ground crew responsible for connecting the air bridge to the aircraft should probably get a “not killing people” bonus for every successfully alighted passenger too.
Also, every car driver giving a lift to 2 passengers should receive a payment of around a 15th of the bus driver pro-rata to take in to account that it’s not a full time job.
In addition, we might make an argument that there should be a “not killing people with a vehicle” bonus offered to all potential jihadists whenever they get behind the wheel.
Ok, those were facetious examples but they illustrate the point. We don’t pay people commensurate with the risk that they might kill others; it is surely a consideration but there are multiple other contributing factors which determine the value we place on a profession.
Some other elements which we use to determine the VALUE (to use the original author’s stylistics) of a profession;
- Rarity of the skills required
- Danger of activity being undertaken
- Entry costs of joining the profession
- Availability of similar or adjacent services or products
(1) and (4) are closely-related; if I need to fly between New York and Washington, I could purchase the services of an airline pilot, a train driver, a bus driver or rent a car and drive myself.
The airline pilot has the most complex training, entry costs to the profession and highest level of regulation to comply with but this doesn’t result in their salary being the highest in the country.
Because we have alternatives to their service which match our appetite for risk, cost, comfort and speed. If, to pay the pilot’s salary, the airline needs to charge $10,000 a ticket for a short round trip between two cities, most people would choose to take the train, bus or drive themselves. Heck, for ten grand, you could buy a secondhand car specifically for the journey.
The author of the comments on the news article above is not asking the right question. The interesting question is not, “shouldn’t we pay bus drivers more money because they could kill 30 people in one crash?” but, “given that bus drivers can kill 30 people in one crash, why are the salaries of bus drivers the world over consistently lower than other professions?“.
Bus drivers get paid at the rate they do because;
- It’s a commodity skill that literally every sane and able-bodied adult can master by attending a short training course, exam and subsequent re-testing.
- Not killing people by negligence or malice is a fundamental axiom by which we expect everyone in society to comply. You don’t get a prize because you didn’t kill anyone at work today.
- By choosing to drive a bus for a career, you have consciously concluded that neurosurgeon, barrister, airline pilot, internet entrepreneur, engineer, professional soccer player, international assassin, etc. are all out of reach of your capabilities at this time, all of which pay better than bus driver.
What we are prepared to pay for individual professions is determined by the VALUE (sic) we judge the profession to provide, a judgement made against multiple factors not just the fact that they could have killed us but but managed not to today.