Letter: Reasonable pay for paper-pushers

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The Independent Online
Sir: Paul Barraclough's letter (9 June) is wrong-headed. He makes the mistake of comparing the pay between his one civil servant and three private-sector sons in order to judge what is "reasonable". Whether a job is reasonably paid depends on the nature of the job.

What do Whitehall civil servants do? If his son is, as Mr Barraclough describes him, a "senior" civil servant, he must be earning something between pounds 40,000 and pounds 60,000. This is for a job which (I speak from experience) largely involves sitting at a desk; checking drafts of junior officers' reports, letters and briefing; going to meetings; ploughing through reams of paper; defending policies you may or may not believe in; and, occasionally, having to calm down a bolshy senior colleague or minister. A first-class degree from Oxford, as Mr Barraclough implies, is helpful if all this is to be done efficiently and effectively.

Take nurses, junior hospital doctors, agricultural workers, teachers, miners, sewerage workers and social workers. These are just some people employed in professions which involve a good deal more stress, effort and/or unpleasantness than being a Whitehall civil servant, for a good deal less money. How "reasonable" is that?

SIMON LAWTON SMITH

London SE13

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