Break the Taboo over Pay Scale

Feb 20 , 2021
By Kidist Yidnekachew ( Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at )

Many people get a job for the sole purpose of making ends meet and would be happy if they never had to work. There are also those, however few, that love their career and find contentment out of it. But even the latter group requires some incentives. I like to think that I am no different.

Last week, I received a call from an acquaintance about a job prospect. It was to host a television and radio programme that required me to show up only twice a week. It was the perfect fit. My friend told me that a man from the company would contact me. Everything seemed to be in place except that I did not know how much it would pay.

I was in the middle of managing personal stuff and did not have time to meet him in person to discuss the job. But he was in a hurry and insisted on meeting. If I had to sacrifice other engagements to see him, I thought, then I need to know what he is going to offer. Usually, I do not particularly appreciate discussing the financial compensation involved unless I want an excuse not to do the job in the first place. But circumstances were different this time. I have also had the experience of spending a good week trying out for a job only to learn the pay was too low and was not worth my time.

Thus, I asked the man how much the salary was. It did not go down well with him. He was disappointed that I brought up money before shooting and auditioning. He said that lowers my points and makes me seem like I care more about the money than the job.

Such behaviour has become somewhat typical of employers. Many of us have applied for a job, been invited for an interview and came back without knowing how much the employer intends to pay us. For most formal permanent jobs, the salary is discussed during an interview. But for contract and part-time jobs, it is only mentioned after discussing the job and sometimes right before starting work.

But is it wrong to ask how much the salary is before securing the job? Does it not save us time and energy unless we considered doing the job regardless of the payment?

Most are afraid of asking, because we do not want to seem like we only care about the money and not the job. But, ironically, most of us would not be doing the job that we were doing if we were not paid to do it.

And this is fine. In a capitalist system – or state-capitalist, in Ethiopia’s case – our hard work and skills have to be compensated somehow. Our rewards cannot just be praise from our employers or supervisors but financial as well. It should especially be fine to ask how much the salary scale is when we have rent to pay, children to raise and, on top of this, the cost of living keeps rising.

Undoubtedly, we should focus on the money and still consider other factors such as the job itself, working environment, convenience, and the level of stress it can inflict on us. Our jobs should not define us, and there is more to life than nine-to-five jobs that keep food on plates. There are family and friends. We are after all social animals that do not naturally carry over into a world of inhumane industry and capital. What matters is how well we juggle these different requirements to be content. One of these is financial wellbeing, and it should be fine to ask if the job we are applying for can afford us this security.

PUBLISHED ON Feb 20,2021 [ VOL 21 , NO 1086]

Kidist Yidnekachew has degrees in psychology and journalism and communications. She can be reached at

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