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I came across a couple of stories this week on different news sites, listing Covid deaths by occupation, with one of them saying that cleaners and refuse collectors were amongst the group in which the most deaths had been recorded. The other didn't mention cleaners at all and I thought that the two stories might be based on conflicting evidence, only to find, upon investigation, that they were both based on an Office for National Statistics report. Whether these were different reports, or whether the two stories were simply wildly different interpretations of the same report, is anyone's guess.
One of the reports was in the Daily Mail (which since I first came across its story, has changed the headline from:‘Binmen and carers are most likely to die from Covid, ONS data on death rates among professions reveals’,to‘Transport workers and carers are among most likely to die from Covid, ONS data on death rates among professions reveals’. And if you’re wondering about my choice of news outlet, my journalism training taught me to read a wide range of publications and this has stood me in good stead over the years, since as well as providing me with so much more knowledge, it allows me to see how different outlets put a different slant on the facts - or as this example shows, how one publication can change its own slant on the facts! I’ve singled out this publication because of the caption under one if its graphs:‘The highest death rate in men was observed in elementary occupations. The ONS says this category includes postmen, builders, cleaners, security staff and other professions that generally don't require a qualification’.
Why would cleaning be listed under 'elementary occupations’? Haven’t the past 12 months proved to the ONS – along with everybody else - that cleaning is anything but ‘elementary' and actually requires specialist skills?
The last I heard, the cleaning industry was contributing something like £54 billion to the UK economy and has, during this pandemic, proved itself to be so crucial to the preservation of life that surely it really ought to have an individual classification. When you’re responsible for adding that much money to the coffers AND are working on the frontline to keep the rest of us safe, you’re hardly an ‘also ran’ are you? Elementary occupation? I don’t think so!
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28th January 2021