Restoring the dignity of work

Two tweets caught my eye:

Now, I have talked about this, more than once before. For a whole host of reasons we seem to have made work, good, honest work, into a bad word. Our society seems to value only professional, mainly white. collar occupations …

… and we have devalued the trades and labour:

Some governments and some political leaders are trying to help change that perspective and there are shortages in some of the trades. But some jobs are gone forever ~ while Canadian mineral production (mining and first level refining) remains strong and continues to grow second and third order production (e.g. steel making) has declined markedly over the past century. Some economists posit that as a county’s GDP grows, as it becomees more and more prosperous, many of it’s hard, dirty jobs …

… migrate to poorer countries. It is not, some economists theorize, that Canadian (and American and British and Danish and Dutch and German) workers don’t want those jobs; it is that they, effectively, priced themselves out of the market because modern transportation and global supply chains mean that other countries’ works can and will do the same work (at last as well) for less. I’m not certain about the causes but I have seen the effects with my own eyes: coal mines and steel mills and auto plants closed in America, Britain, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands while new ones opened in China, Japan and South Korea. In the 1970s I drove a Canadian made “big three” car; today I drive a car that was designed in America but is assembled in South Korea.

As I have said before, there is human dignity in this …

… there is none in this:

US President Ronald Reagan was absolutely correct when he said that the best social programme is a job. It seems so intuitively obvious but we, at a societal level, seem to think otherwise. It is natural, I suppose, for each of us to want our children to do better than we did ~ to have better, more comfortable lives. That may include wanting our children to have less demanding, cleaner jobs. But while being a clerk in a nice warm office may be more comfortable than being a construction worker it is is not necessarily a “better” job.

There’s a telling line in an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail about America’s (and Canada’s) culture wars. Cross-border (America/Canada) author Phoebe Maltz Bovy says that the Trump campaign “spoke to unapologetic bigots, but also to working-class white Americans tired of hearing how privileged they were from upper class white people.” The perception that some jobs are “better” because the earnings are higher is deeply entrenched in our society and it gotten to the point where some people with useless university degrees that qualify them only to be baristas or clothing store clerks look down on (well paid) construction workers.

Of course, there is a small percentage of the people, in every country, who cannot hold a job ~ they are mentally or physically or emotionally disabled ~ and they need help just to exist. But something in excess of 90% of Canadians are able and (mostly) willing to do some kind of useful work. Not all jobs can or should be “white collar” or “pink collar.” There is a need for many, many people to work with their hands, often outdoors and in the cold. But there is dignity in that work … it is the work that makes a better Canada for all of us.

We must, as Pierre Poilievre says, end the “war on work,” that the Trudeau government seems to be waging by paying people to be idle. It must always be measurably better to work than to sit at home and collect “benefits.” And, as Dan Robertson so very correctly says, we must restore the dignity that a job provides.

Published by Ted Campbell

Old, retired Canadian soldier, Conservative ~ socially moderate, but a fiscal hawk. A husband, father and grandfather. Published material is posted under the "Fair Dealing" provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act for the purposes of research, private study and education.

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