Does Covid 19 change our opinion of low-skilled workers? 

Neala ó Moráin

5th Year (primary)
Scoil Lorcáin, Blackrock, Dublin

My project is asking whether the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we think of low skilled workers.  Covid-19 has forced many people to work from home or stop working altogether.  However low skilled workers have to carry on working through the crisis, they are people that do jobs that not many want to do, such as cleaners and bin people who have to keep working.  Before the crisis they were often treated like they were invisible but people are now coming to terms with the fact that without these workers we wouldn’t be able to survive as a society.  

Economist David McWilliams recently tweeted on April 30th ‘Looking out my window at the bin men in the lashing rain doing their thing, these lads have played a blinder during the Lockdown Ireland keeping the place clean no fuss.  The frontline comes in various guises’ #lockdown Ireland.   This tweet was liked over 9000 times.  I decided to explore this further as it seemed liked peoples attitudes were changing. 

To find out I decided to conduct a survey. I did this as I wanted to find out as many opinions as possible and to get anonymous answers.  I got 25 people to tell me their opinions.  I came up with four questions, the first one was ‘Do you think the perception of people has changed since the Covid- 19 crisis of low-skilled workers such as hospital porters, bin people and delivery people?  I decided to ask this question as I wanted to see if people felt the same way I did and they did.  One hundred percent of people said yes, showing that peoples perceptions are changing.  One responder wrote ‘yes i think we really see how important and crucial they are for the functioning of society.  Results of the survey shows the majority agreed with this.    

The second question was ‘Do you think that low skilled workers are treated fairly by society?’  I asked this question as low skilled workers jobs are normally paid the least and in my opinion are least respected.  90 percent of people agreed that they are not treated fairly by society.  One responder wrote.  ‘Many low skilled workers take pride in their work we should take pride in them.   

My third question was how do you value success?  Money, happiness or pride in work.  20% of people said money 30% said happiness and 50% said pride in work.  One responder wrote ‘pride in work and the rest should follow’ but that’s not always the case.  

The final question was ‘should we be paying low skilled workers more?   I asked this question because people may agree that they are being treated unfairly but would they be willing to pay them more?  92% of people agreed that low skilled workers should be paid more.  One responder wrote ‘we need to take a look at how we as a society calculate a person’s worth’   

My survey really shows that at the moment people’s opinions are changing but is this really going to last after the crisis?  Or will we all just go back to ignoring the issue?  These essential workers are not being paid very well.  We may be applauding them for their work, but that isn’t good enough.  How is that helping them feed themselves and their families?  Covid-19 has uncovered this issue, we may be in this together but some of us or ‘in it’ more than others.   

If we are really grateful for these workers we would pay them more, even if it means being taxed more.  However, the well off people, safe working at home may be unwilling to do this.  Covid-19 is showing that there is a divide, while people with money can work from home and stay safe, the less well off are forced to keep working and risk their health.   Low-skilled work can be very hard physical work.  Keeling Fruit farm advertised the job of picking fruit in Ireland but only forty people applied for the job and Keelings needed a lot more than that so they brought in 189 workers from Bulgaria to pick their fruit.  A lot of people were mad that Keelings would bring people from overseas during the pandemic but in reality not many people in Ireland were willing to take on such hard work.  Katy Dineen, assistant lecturer in Philosophy UCC was quoted in the Irish Times ‘this virus is making it harder for us to shield our eyes from the conditions some workers are being asked to tolerate’.  In my opinion the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that essential workers are very essential and should be treated much better.