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Owen Jones Is Right But He’s Wrong Still

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Owen Jones wants us to know that we Brits are just entirely Blue Meanies. For we’ve the lowest sick pay among the rich nations.

It should be impossible to be shocked by anything in 2020, let alone the latest example of ministerial chutzpah tossed on to a Mount Everest of Tory shamelessness. Yet this week Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health and car crash interviews, pondered: “Why in Britain do we think it’s acceptable to soldier on and go into work if you have flu symptoms or a runny nose, thus making your colleagues ill?” He went on, blaming those who believe that “as long as you can get out of bed you should get into work”.

Truly, here is a mystery for Hercule Poirot: rather than being driven by a “work till you drop” culture, could the propensity of many British workers to toil when ill actually have something to do with their country being an outlier in another regard – namely, in its derisory level of sick pay? Britons stricken with coronavirus have the lowest mandatory sick pay of the OECD industrialised nations as a proportion of average earnings. It’s not workaholism dragging the ill to their offices and factory floors: it is the basic and inescapable need to pay bills and feed the children.

The Young Shaver links to an OECD report to make his point. In which OECD report we find the following:

The UK is one of those 13 out of 30-ish countries where the effective sick leave payment is 100% of wages. Sure, within the confines of how the OECD is measuring it and all that.

This is terrible, a tragedy, because it’s not government insisting upon it, capitalism and markets produce it all on their own.

What an indictment of a capitalist and market, free even, system, eh? That goodies and nice things get produced with out politicians mandating them? Next someone will be trying to tell us that political planning isn’t the way to grow an economy either.

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