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I’m in awe of people who work with their hands – it’s a crying shame those jobs don’t pay more

·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Tempura/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Tempura/Getty Images

There are jobs that use the head, those that need a heart and those for which you have to use your hands. The trouble is that you will normally be far more amply rewarded for one than for the other two put together. Jobs using your head will usually bring home more bacon than those using your heart or hands. The relative pay packets of most people working with their hands must have been shrinking since the iron age.

Apart, possibly, from cooking, I’m not blessed with “hand” skills. I was crap at Lego and never moved on from that. I tell a lie. I had a go at being a scaffolder when I left school, and was hopeless at that, too, which could have had far graver consequences for myself and others than playing Lego. So, I’m not blowing my own trumpet when I say it’s a crying shame that most jobs using hands don’t pay more. It seems so unfair. I looked on, slack-jawed in admiration, the other day as a plumber took apart my oil-fired boiler, reassembled it and, lo, there was heat. It’s the same with sparks, chippies and builders of all shapes and sizes. I observe them at work knowing you could leave me with the same materials and the best tools until the end of time, and I would contrive to create nothing of any use or value.

I suppose someone will tell me that the pay is all about supply and demand and whatnot. But something’s not right. I’d feel more comfortable with the world if there was any correlation at all between the money people make and how much I admire the kind of work they do. And to those of you who might, politely or impolitely, ask what I’ve done to deserve whatever money I’ve made, I’d say you may have a point.

There’s all kinds of head work, and all kinds of heart and hand work, but I’m not being patronising or insincere when I say that when I meet, say, a nurse or social worker, or a carpenter, I’m far, far more in awe of their talents then when I meet someone in finance. “How did you make that furniture?” is always going to be a more interesting question to me than “How did you move that money about?”

For all these reasons I loved it when the winner of the Oscar for best director, Chloé Zhao, thanked all the “hearts and hands” that came together to make Nomadland. But I expect it was the “heads” who made all the money.

• Adrian Chiles is a Guardian columnist