Who is Essential?

The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed some of the inherent shortcomings of the capitalist economic system. The recent labeling of “essential employees” during quarantine highlights the indispensability of certain jobs performed by low-wage earners, such as restaurant and delivery staff, Uber drivers, cashiers, and so on. These essential employees are not the millionaires and billionaires who claim to “create” wealth, but rather the minimum wage earners who stock grocery shelves and the pharmacy cashiers who ring up medicines. But the Covid-19 crisis shows that these jobs are crucial for maintaining society. These workers are the ones who make daily life function. Yet, in the capitalist system, one’s income is considered as a measure of the importance of your work and contribution to society. Minimum wage earners are viewed as the least important because they are easily replaceable while billionaires are supposedly essential. Crises such as this one remind us of the harsh inequality that separates the wealthy elite from us, the working class. Meanwhile it shows that we are essential and they aren’t. If all the billionaires disappeared tomorrow, we would still get the important work done.

Featured image credit: Alexander Baxevanis, licensed under CC-BY-2.0