I learned today that that the Norwegian Equality and Discrimination Ombudsman have decided that public sector workplaces can not pay two groups with the same length of education differently. The specific case where a case where some nurses and some engineers in a small Norwegian community where earning different salaries, even though both groups had four years of higher education.
While the case will be taken to the courts, and hopefully overturned, it is an example of equality thinking having gone horribly wrong. There is so many problems with this decision that I have problems knowing where to start. First of all this decision forgets that the labour market, is in fact a market. Different salary levels come about as a result of supply and demand issues or a range of years. And if this rule is not overturned it means that public sector work places will basically be unable to get qualified employees in high competition parts of the labour market, as it is of course infeasible to increase the salary of every employee in the public sector each time one need to pay more for in demand labour.
The second part is that it makes the already ineffective tuning of the education sector to the needs of the labour market even more ineffective. If you can’t pay people who have been taking math in Uni higher for instance than someone studying other subjects, that means you have very few incentives for driving people towards harder and/or less popular studies which are needed for society to prosper.
If the rule stands it also plays into the already growing problem of education padding, where groups are continuously pushing for longer education periods to increase the standing of their profession. The financial education I took over four years is today actually a five year degree, and even when I did my degree I wondered to myself what knowledge or skill was actually passed to me during those four years which couldn’t been just as effectively transfered over three years.
The Norwegian socialists (communists?) need to wake up and realize that equal pay for equal work is not the same as equal pay for all work. Salary equality need to be aimed for on a macrolevel, not across random professional boundaries and organizations.The government is supposed to be involved in nation building here, not a re-enactment of Animal Farm.
And I am not saying that salary inquality is not something which cant be a problem. I do agree that policies aiming at making sure that women who holds basically the same job as a man should get on average equal pay is correct for instance. (And I repeat that the goal should be to look at that problem in the context of macro level averages as there are of course many cases where paying one person more than another is reasonable, even if they have similar backgrounds. An obvious example here is the world of pro-sports, but that applies just as much to other types of work, ie. Linus Torvalds is of course not comparable with any random person who spent the same amount of years as he doing computer science in Uni.)
And I was also musing while watching the US news and discussion shows on TV here yesterday, that
maybe one of the big issues undermining the US economy and sense of social unity is the enormous gaps in income here. But just like the gender equality issue trying to address that issues through public policy needs to happen gradually on a macro level and not on a micro level. For example are there laws or policies that could be put in place that would strengthen the bargaining position of those earning less and thus over time improve their average income level in relation to the rest of society?
Of course politicians today do not think in such high level terms, instead they prefer buying votes by earmarking money to specific groups.