My younger sister has never, to my knowledge, displayed a lie on the side of a bus. She has not yet achieved the dubious feat of making a meeting of adult men and women dutifully chant openly questioned numbers in response to questions about new hospitals, new nurses, new police officers. She did not persuade 13.9 million people to vote in December for a political party of which she was the leader. She has never published an entirely fabricated quotation from a prominent historian in a national newspaper, nor taken a Caribbean holiday for £15,000.
My sister works for a charity, supporting adults with learning disabilities. She helps them with banking, shopping, cleaning. She has done training in first aid, epilepsy, moving and handling; she can change a catheter. After a twenty-four-hour shift, she will come home and sleep for the afternoon. She is paid her full salary for only sixteen of those twenty-four hours. She is a care worker, and she really, really cares; both in the practical sense, undertaking the tasks required by her job, but beyond that, she cares in a way that is not, and could never be, reflected in pay thresholds decided by government.
My beautiful, kind, funny, sweet little sister, and so many others in similar roles, would – because they are paid less than £25,600 a year – not be considered worthy of a UK visa for skilled workers, under the government’s recently published immigration plans. Which raises the question, what is a skill? Is there a strong correlation between skills required for a job, and the amount that job pays? Looking at some of the very well remunerated individuals in the cabinet, one has reason at least to doubt it.
Image: Farm Workers Resistance via Flickr