H from Steps may have his detractors but would even his most loyal fans argue that he makes a ‘meaningful’ contribution to society?
His songs may prove momentarily diverting to the kind of people for whom chewing bubble gum presents a stiff intellectual challenge, but how does the canon of his work stand in comparison with the output of, say, a chicken sexer on a poultry production line, or a script editor on an episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys?
That is the kind of philosophical conundrum posed by a new survey, which seeks to rank occupations in terms of their importance to society, based on a series of metrics, including pay, meaningfulness and satisfaction.
And it has thrown up some interesting findings.
Singers, for example, believe they contribute more to society than fashion designers while financial advisers feel the world would be better without them. And who would argue with that?
Funeral directors, dentists and opticians are among those who believe they genuinely make a difference, while writers and artists, media and communication professionals and animators are among those who believe their work has little meaning.
Surprisingly the work of clergy is deemed more ‘meaningful’ than that of a surgeon. Really? I know who I’d want in my corner after, say, a messy Bungee jumping accident.
Also high on the list of ‘meaningful’ occupations are chiropractors and psychiatrists – or bone-crushers and head quacks as they are known in our house. Among the least meaningful jobs are parking lot attendants, welders and machine setters.
Most of us need to work to earn a living but how important is it for us to find our work meaningful?
A lack of motivation doubtless makes it more difficult for us to do our job. Struggling out of bed in the morning and watching the hands of the clock tick over throughout the day hardly makes for a satisfying working life.
If we’re not fulfilled at work, that invariably impacts on home life; it can seem the working week lasts an eternity while the week-ends fly by and those long dreamed of holidays can feel like they’re over in the blink of an eye.
But how many of us are actually satisfied with what we do? We may have a job that demands a lot of our attention but that’s not the same as genuine job satisfaction.
According to the study by PayScale, a US-based employment research organisation, surprisingly few of us feel we make a positive change in the world.
PayScale asked workers in more than 454 different occupations to complete a questionnaire about whether they feel their work makes the world a better place.
They were also asked to provide information about their salary, bonuses and additional compensation such as profit sharing, tips, or commission.
Topping the list for the most meaningful job were clergy with a three-way tie for second place shared by English teachers in secondary schools, directors of religious activities and education and surgeons.
Of those the highest paid are surgeons who typically take home a median salary of £234,785 and 96% of respondents found strong meaning in their work.
Of the top 10 most meaningful professions, directors of religious activities and education were the poorest paid, taking home an annual salary of just £29,039 but the same number, 96% of respondents still find strong meaning in the role, compared with surgeons, who earned the most.
Many of the roles designated as ‘most meaningful’ are in medicine – including chiropractors, radiation therapists and psychiatrists and all of the jobs involve working closely with people in a helpful capacity.
Less meaningful roles varied strongly by type of work and compensation and they were more likely to be independent and corporate jobs, or those that involve dealing with customers.
Low wage occupations such as counter and rental clerks and shipper also landed on the list alongside more prestigious and well-compensated jobs like senior web designer, fashion designer, and merchandise planner.
The least satisfied workers on the list were car-park attendants who are paid, on average, £15,214 and only one in 20 believe their job is meaningful.
The study also included a breakdown of people who believe their jobs make the world a worse place. Among the highest on the list are online retail warehouse staff, who typically earn £19,153, as well as casino floor supervisors (£39,311) and merchandise planning managers (£72,907).