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The most dangerous work only deserves $300 per week?

Ebola Health care workers in Liberia earning just $300 a week. How unbelievable the fact is !

Photo of Yujun Zhang
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Workers on the front-lines of the Ebola crisis in Liberia have gone on strike. They say they're ostracized and underpaid. Do they only deserve $300 per week? What do you guys think about this fact?

As for me, I really cannot accept this situation happened. The tough work in the world right now cannot get the appropriate payment. This is absolutely ridiculous fact I've ever heard in this year.

Should we do something for the workers who are one the front-lines of the Ebola crisis in Liberia? If so, how can we do for them ?


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Photo of Rob Everetts

I see both sides of this coin. On one side, I agree, through the lenses of someone in a developed economy, where healthcare workers are among the most highly valued professions in the country, $300 per week is a measly sum. Given the risk these workers are accepting (sickness and/or death), why can't someone come up with more money to pay them? Not only do we ask them to treat the sick while wrapped in suits they can only wear for an hour before overheating, but we ask that they trust these suits will preserve their own lives, we ask that they remain positive about one's chances to survive and not give up, among many other expectations. It's daunting to say the least, and to say that these workers are our primary hope for containing the disease in places like the slums of the big cities of Western Africa is an understatement; they are the only hope in the eyes of the sick.

That said, there's another side of that coin. I worked on a project for JFK Medical Center in Monrovia, Liberia (the only tertiary care hospital in the country) this past March, just a couple of weeks before Ebola hit Liberia, and one of our teams of MBAs was tasked with evaluating the cost structure of the hospital to find savings. That did NOT include reducing salaries, I'd like to add. But it did expose us to what the staff makes. Let me state that JFK Medical Center pays the absolute highest wages of any government or quasi-government organization in Liberia, but workers do receive an education stipend on top of their salaries, so total compensation is very high compared to the vast majority of Liberians (whose unemployment rate is 70+%). A nurse with a Bachelor's degree in nursing earns around half of what these workers are earning. And that salary affords many of them to support their families (many men do not work, or sell goods on the streets, while the women have careers), including multiple generations. Many even have saved up to purchase property and own their own homes. On $150/week. Doctors make about $400/week. This is not the kind of economy that supports high salaries. It's cheap to live there, and if you have a job, you're among a 30% minority to begin with.

So I present this not as an argument against what you're saying. I share it to remind ourselves that through the eyes of someone in a developed nation, such salaries seem insulting and ludicrous. To someone on the ground, that is more than a comfortable living. It's all a different perspective. I think they deserve more, but I also know the struggles the governments there have ahead of them in terms of funding the fight. The US and other developed nations need to do more to support the fight, but ultimately, if you need vast numbers of workers to fight the disease, and $300/week is at the high end of a middle class wage (perhaps equivalent to US $60,000+/year), is that too different from how we pay our EMTs and nurses? Just food for thought.

Photo of Yujun Zhang

Yup, I agree with you that there are two sides of a coin. But I think the point is which side we should be inclined to. Actually, I never seem that salary is insulting and ludicrous. I just hope the government and companies can pay more attention to corporate social responsibility, which is about the responsibility for society, especially for some people who are in poor conditions.

Anyway, your thought is completely useful for us to enrich our knowledge. Really appreciate you.