Paying the Disabled Less

There is a discussion in the UK that was sparked somewhat badly. The discussion is whether employers should be allowed to pay disabled employees less than minimum wage, and have the government top up the wage out of taxpayer money. The awful spark of this conversation was when a politician said “some people… are worth less than others”. Awful. Just awful. But fundamentally correct. And recognising it will open up more opportunities for the disabled.

We need to get something clear: we are not paid according to our moral worth. I don’t believe there is any difference in the moral worth of well-bodied and disabled people. We are paid according to our economic worth, or our productivity. And in some jobs, disabled people are going to be less productive than others. With that, either true or simply perceived, employers are hesitant to employ disabled people. This cuts off their opportunities. If it is in fact true that disabled people are less productive, then they should be paid less. In the same way we all want a raise when we do a good job¹.

The benefit of this would be that disabled people can actually have a job. I don’t know whether you’ve spent any time unemployed, but it is demoralising; you start to value yourself less. That is something we need to avoid. If people who have been long-term unemployed can get into the habit of being employed, their productivity will increase as they learn workarounds for their particular concern. We’re talking about disabled people, not morons; they will learn workarounds and increase their productivity. Albeit, there is a good risk it will be slower than the well-bodied. And “full productivity” isn’t guaranteed. We don’t expect industry to invest in risk like that, but somehow we want to resolve the unemployment among the disabled issue.

This isn’t a hand out, either. The government can reward hard work; it is industry that rewards productivity in real terms. The government would be paying out less money than it is at current, because the job would pay part of the living money, and the government would pay the top up instead of the lot (as it is now).

There would be an extra responsibility for the HR department, obviously. It’s role would be to look at whether an employee’s disability is still very much holding back productivity, and if not balancing pay should shift: as the disabled employee becomes full productive, the industry should foot the entire salary; the issue is no longer there.

This system, even if it was sparked without any level of sensitivity, creates opportunities for people who employers are too risk-averse to employ. It allows disabled people to develop skills to improve their employability (because long-term unemployment is probably the real long-term obstacle to productivity; it leads to lacking skills). It saves some government spending and improves the morale of people who, due to unemployment, are at real risk of depression.

¹ I’d go one further, and say that more people should be paid on productivity. I for one am sick of picking up the slack of lazy employees because I have some loyalty to the company, customer or my sense of moral worth. Only the disabled, people who have a legitimate excuse for being less productive, should actually get the government top up.


19 thoughts on “Paying the Disabled Less”

  1. The minimum wage obviates the market worth of an employee since it is then the government that sets the value of unskilled labor.

    If one believes in a minimum wage then it is indeed proper for the taxpayer to subsidize the labor cost of less productive workers.

      1. Yes, I am against the minimum wage.

        The market is the most just and effective means of determining the price of labor.

        When the government sets the minimum wage, it does so for purely political, not economic, reasons.

        Additionally the minimum wage sets the price of labor above market value.

        People in general prefer not to purchase houses, cars, stocks, etc. above market value because to do so means losing money.

        Similarly, people don’t go into business to lose money by purchasing labor above the market price.

        Consequently, the cost of the government minimum wage is passed on to society thus lowering the standard of living for everyone.

        The minimum wage is actually the title of a particular piece of political demagoguery that in reality is an economic albatross.

        1. You can’t compare government budget sheets to the one used in your house. The economy relies on the movement of money. So there is an economic ground to a minimum wage.
          However, I don’t see the political motivation–protecting people–as a just criticism. Without a minimum wage people will be undercut by whoever is willing to live in the lease comfortable condition: I might do this job for £7 per hour, but I might be undercut by a migrant happy to work for £2.50 an hour. No one’s time is worth that little, but people will make the sacrifice. Suddenly pay (and the security it affords) decreases nationally. Sure, the top 10% night be safe, but they’re hardly responsible for economic mobility, and less so if they have to shell out less per person.
          There are too many people and to few jobs to not have a minimum wage to protect us.

        2. Alla,

          All the government can do is make rules, execute the rules and judge whether the rules are being followed.

          It produces no wealth at all.

          In fact, any assets the government has comes from the economy through taxation of one sort or another.

          Therefore, the bigger the government, the smaller the economy.

          The government budgets and balance sheets have nothing to do with the market setting prices.

          It is only when the government interferes with economy through rule making (like the minimum wage) that fair market pricing is replaces by the self interest of politicians and government bureaucrats.

          Government interference of that sort is oppression.

          Since government rules like the minimum wage are examples of oppression, that is another reason why I am against the minimum wage.

        3. Alla,

          I explained that the minimum wage places the cost of labor above market value.

          That means employers hire less people and work the employees they have, that much harder.

          I’ve been there and done that, decades before I went to grad school and studied basic economics.

  2. Hiya,

    I edit a wordpress-based mag called Care To Share Magazine. It is a free mag dealing with issues loosely centred around health and social care.

    May I put this article in the next issue? I should be fair and point out that it would probably attract some hostile comments from readers but it’s important that we cover different opinions (assuming you’re willing). You would, of course get full credit and a backlink to your blog.

    Please let me know.



  3. Thankyou. I’ll put a comment in the Editor’s notes asking for civil conversation but you’re right – onslaught may well be the operative word.



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