I watched the Dutch news the other day, on my iPad. Being a Dutchie living abroad, I like to do that, but only every once in a while. I saw a topic about cleaners on strike and protesting in the streets of Amsterdam. Typically, people protesting and being on strike want higher wages, amongst some other things. The same applied to these cleaners. Some high flying executive came on camera, mentioning he paid them 120% of the minimum wage, which is still 20% above minimum wage, and that should be enough. Because, he adds, cleaning will not make you rich. He’s been there, he says. I guess unlike scrubbing floors and toilets, his executive job and paying his staff very little did make him rich. Glad it all worked out for him in the end.
The current Dutch minimum wage, according to Wikipedia, is 8,57 euro. Adding 20% to that bring the total just over 10 euro per hour. Even when taking the currency exchange rates in effect I pay the people that clean my house significantly more than that. I must seem crazy, but actually I don’t care all that much. My cleaners work behind the scenes. When I come home from a long day I prefer to find a clean house, not having to do lots of cleaning work myself or a cleaning crew still working hard. The experience of coming home to a clean house is like magic. One of those moments where you smile and say “priceless”. It’s the experience I pay for, not an hourly rate.
It’s easy to get used to magic, as well. Maybe even start taking it for granted, which really is a bad thing. A sense of appreciation gets replaced by entitlement if we’re not careful. If a guy loads (or unloads) the dishwasher and his wife or girlfriend didn’t see him do it, it somehow doesn’t seem to count. Does the same apply to our cleaning staff who works really hard behind the scenes, all while not getting noticed? Since it doesn’t count we think it’s okay to pay them barely over minimum wage.
It’s true what the guy said on tv – cleaning probably isn’t going to make you rich. No job where you’re simply getting paid an hourly rate for the work you do is going to make you rich. There’s only about 8-10 workable hours every day, so even if you make a lot of money per hour you are limited by the amount of time you have available. Until we let go of the “compensating for time” model we can go on strike to demand better wages, but nothing is going to make a significant impact. Instead, how much is the experience of coming home to a clean house worth? What value did my cleaning lady contribute to my life by making all of that in order for me, a few less things to worry about? To me, that’s priceless.