The Value of Time

(Written for 'Observation' Magazine in 1993) - Introduction by Editor Catherine Maggi
"The amount we earn in the form of a salary, wage, fee, commission or other form of payment is most often dependent on the time we are willing to spend, and what we are able to do during that time. The value of a person’s time is indicated by the amount others are willing to pay for a service, in other words, how much they value the time of another

In a recent Introduction to Permaculture course, presented by Margaret RainbowWeb, participants decided amongst themselves upon the fee for the course and how each person would pay. Margaret believes right livelihood involves changing our attitude about money. In the following article she explains how the practical exercise had a very interesting outcome."

We began by brain-storming. We ranged over social justice issues, the ethics of using money to confer status and value, power and the mis-use of power, the apparent impossibility of changing things, and how imperative it is that we do so. It became obvious that the task we had set ourselves was not simple.
Time was limited, so we moved on to the specific task of deciding how much my time and skills were worth to the course participants.

Carers, Educators and Gardeners, doing work that will shape the real future of the world

This proved uncomfortable for us all, as we realised how many value judgements are made by our society - and endorsed by us - when deciding how much to pay people. We discussed the inequities of paying senior public servants large salaries, while placing no value on such skills as raising children, household budgeting, or supporting a partner physically and emotionally, thus enabling him/her to concentrate on work outside the home.
We noted that carers, educators and gardeners, doing work that will shape the real future of the world, were less valued than those handling large amounts of money. We soon agreed, with some relief, not to attempt to reward skills, or assess the potential value of the course to each person, but just to set an hourly rate for my time.

We each reduced our income to an hourly rate. The lowest, $4, was for caring for elderly people in their homes. A University lecturer, surprisingly, when his total hours were considered, earned between $8 and $9 per hour, and an office worker $10. Again, we found the ‘simple’ task was really very complex.

Eventually we agreed on the number of hours for which each person would pay me. Five people participated in a course of 18 hours. To pay 18 hours each was considered unreasonable. To pay 3 1/2 hours left people feeling they were not paying enough. We compromised on 6 hours, or the equivalent in labour and/or goods. This meant that, when setting an actual rate, people would be considering a fair rate for their own labour as well as mine.

People would be considerhg a fair rate for their own labour as well as mine.

Having slept on the problem, we agreed upon $10 per hour, i.e. $60 or its equivalent, for the whole course.
Two participants were on Social Security Benefits, but concessions were seen as irrelevant, as money was not the preferred form of payment.

As no-one belonged to the LETS system, contracts were proposed, and some agreed.
One participant hosted the course, supplied refreshments, transport, and did some laminating for me.
Someone cleaned the house of a friend of mine when they moved, in return for which the friend gave me her old washing machine.
A woman who has agreed to work with me to install a fitted kit wardrobe in my home said she felt really empowered by my confidence that she had the skill to carry out the task.
Five stripped mattress springs, delivered to my home, were deemed worth six hours work.
Word-processing, painting, and heavy cleaning are other tasks being considered as parts of the contracts.

Everyone found the exercise personally challenging, and said they would never be able to see money in the same way again.

Major conclusions were:

As one participant (the lowest paid!) enthusiastically stated:

"I realise now that poverty is a state of mind. I am a rich woman,
because I have, and am surrounded by, a wealth of real resources"

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