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Why is salary such a taboo? Watch

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    A free, efficient and competitive market heavily depends on the availability of information. We implement this in most other areas of the economy but when it comes to the jobs market, we're doing the exact opposite. I often wonder why, for most professions, we have a culture of keeping the amount of money a particular job pays and or a particular person earns very private and confidential.

    Many job advertisements do not specify how much they pay, but will just say something like "market rate" or "competitive". When we discuss our salaries with our employers, it's in a private place with no other employees around. Any documents containing people's salary details are considered highly classified. Some of us don't disclose the exact figure that we earn to anyone, even close friends or family. In general, it's seen as something that should be hidden, taboo and not talked about.

    Whose benefit is this for?


    It seems like this culture favours the large corporate employer, who benefits from the information asymmetry. They have a lot of information on how much people typically earn for doing a job, but can get away with paying people less than they're worth, hoping that they won't find out that they could earn more somewhere else. It also enables them to inappropriately discriminate between employees without anyone ever realising.

    I feel like it would favour the ordinary working man if access to salary information was more freely available. We'd know how much our services are worth, we'd be in the driving seat when it comes to commanding salaries commensurate with our services, we'd be able to direct our careers more effectively and we'd be able to aspire to greater heights when we see other people reach them.

    In other countries, salary isn't always such a taboo. For example, in Norway it is possible to look up any other citizen on a national database and see exactly how much they earn (although they will receive a notification that you have done this). But why do we have such a culture of keeping it under wraps?
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    People get to worried they'll offend/upset someone who earns less if they bring it up, or come across as bragging etc.

    I agree it has plenty of unfortunate repercussions that have been discussed many times before, but much like finding nudity offensive, or believing we should eat pigs but not bugs, it's now so much a part of our culture it's hard to change.
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    Some careers the taboo of salary is far more apparent. Vet medicine is certainly one. It is not uncommon for the next thing to be mentioned in conversation after a vet being brought up is just how expensive they are. Without getting into the debate of why this is justifiable (drugs aren’t cheap TLDR) vets actually don’t earn that much in comparison to similarly trained professionals such as doctors or dentists. Despite having the same quantity of professional knowledge, responsibility and debt. The fact job advertisements never reveal the salary you would be paid does nothing to help this as it leads members of the public to just assume vets are ‘rolling in it’.
    • Community Assistant
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    I think salary is just too personal to share willingly. I guess it may come down to being judged or you will be expected to give handouts to everyone because you make a certain amount of money. It's the same with savings, I never tell people how much I have in savings because for starters it's not really their business and secondly some will definitely ask me to "lend" them money and if you refuse then you're selfish or stingy.
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    Because immediately showing your hand is usually a bad move.
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