Sorry Zoe, this argument doesn’t work

“I’ve heard if you earn minimum wage in England you’re in the top 10% earners in the world. #stay #humble” The central mystery surrounding Stuart Broad’s sanctimonious Twitter activity (he has since apologised) is how he came to be a cricketer. You would think someone with poor numeracy would be better suited to a sport like football.

It is relatively easy to be in the richest 10% on the minimum wage, if you’re happy to live in a very expensive place. The minimum wage in Gabon is £3,672, or less than a third of our £13,500. On the other hand, a suburban one-bedroom flat there is £63 a month, or less than an eighth the cost of the average suburban one-bedder in the UK (£541). A couple more data points (average public transport, 17p to £2.20) and the picture is pretty plain; someone on the minimum wage in the UK may technically be richer, but could buy a lot less and will ergo struggle a lot more. Money doesn’t mean anything out of context: its value is determined by what you can buy with it. Most people figure this out by the age of about seven.


Because
if this is true then there’s some other things that follow. Like it doesn’t matter that the top 1% own 50% of everything. Because a great deal of that is just average housing in expensive parts of the world. Further, UK inequality is much lower than recorded because prices vary around the country.

You don’t get to have it both ways.

15 thoughts on “Sorry Zoe, this argument doesn’t work”

  1. I take it Zoe must be a football fan then.

    Well this numerate football fan living in Liverpool is reminded of a local saying for.people like her: “She doesn’t know the score”.

  2. I think I need to stop reading and listening.

    Someone famous says something that is true but which, for a variety of reasons, the mob doesn’t like. Famous person reflexively apologises for telling the truth.

    Minister decides to introduce plain packaging of cigarettes on a whim, without consulting Cabinet or the PM, because “Labour were going to do it”. By their own analysis, smoking kills the smoker and those around them. The research shows that plain packaging increases smoking and the hazards of smoking tobacco mixed with sawdust. The minister (by her own logic) is willing to sacrifice a few thousand lives to garner three more votes. The mob thinks this is a Good Thing.

    I despair, I truly do.

  3. Did you notice the little correction at the end of the piece?

    ‘This article was amended on 28 January 2015 to correct the comparison in the second paragraph of minimum wages in the UK and Gabon.’

    After spending some time criticising others for innumeracy and ‘a failure of maths’, she originally said:

    ‘The minimum wage in Gabon is £3,672, or a bit over a third of our £13,500.’

    Priceless!

  4. I don’t understand why a cricketer needs to be particularly numerate.

    And, of course, a Guardian commentator sneering about someone else’s numeracy is a candidate for a dictionary definition of ‘chutzpah’.

  5. The Gabon minimum wage figure obviously comes from Wikipedia’s list of minimum wages by country; but googling around a bit suggests that it does exist, and is pretty much enforced except on foreign workers in Gabon (of whom there are myriads).

    I’d previously only heard of Gabon from Gerald Durrell as the place that the Gabon viper comes from, but it turns out to be a moderately-petrostate; calling it the Kuwait of West Africa would still be unfair, it’s got a very poor hinterland, but it’s not all that surprising that it would have a minimum wage in the cities.

  6. The only figures I can find suggest that Gabon’s minimum wage is £2,053 per annum, or 150,000 XAF per month. Somehow I doubt it is widely enforced.

  7. Gabon is a petrostate; Gabonese get sinecures and get at least the minimum wage, African immigrants do the shitwork and get bugger-all, the occasional Tim Newman (possibly actually Tim Newman, TotalFinaElf is one of the companies working there) does fiddly stuff at great cost.

  8. Bloke in Costa Rica

    The likes of Zoe Williams want to have their cake and eat it; proclaim that cake is a basic human right; call for more government-subsidised cake; get in a huff because cake is too expensive in London; rage that rich people eat nicer cakes; regulate cake-makers into oblivion and then bemoan the moribund state of UK cake-making.

  9. I think the larger problem with her attempted point is that the figures she’s quoting have already been corrected for Purchasing Power Parity.

  10. Gabon is a petrostate; Gabonese get sinecures and get at least the minimum wage, African immigrants do the shitwork and get bugger-all, the occasional Tim Newman (possibly actually Tim Newman, TotalFinaElf is one of the companies working there) does fiddly stuff at great cost.

    Not me, but plenty of my colleagues, yes.

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