Grab your tiniest violin: Google, once known for its lavish work perks, is slashing its fun budget. Employees can no longer jet off on as many jollies as they used to and are going to have to dramatically scale back their Christmas parties. The cost-cutting hasn’t gone down well with Google staff, who confronted the CEO, Sundar Pichai, at a recent company-wide meeting. Why was Google “nickel-and-diming” them, Pichai was asked, when the company “had record profits and huge cash reserves”?
Pichai’s response was: “I hope all of you are reading the news.” Because the news, you may have noticed, isn’t great right now. After briefly talking about macroeconomic conditions, Pichai couldn’t resist moralising. “I remember when Google was small and scrappy,” the multimillionaire, who earned $6.3m (£5.8m) in pay last year, said. “We shouldn’t always equate fun with money. I think you can walk into a hard-working startup and people may be having fun and it shouldn’t always equate to money.”
We are in the middle of a cost of living crisis where people are having to choose between heating and eating. The fact that a bunch of well-paid techies are having their sushi budgets reduced isn’t exactly a tragedy. Still it is hard not to feel infuriated by Pichai’s remarks. There is nothing more annoying, after all, than obscenely rich people explaining to the rest of us that money just isn’t that important. Fun doesn’t always equate to money, that’s true, but it is hard to have fun when you are perpetually broke. Pichai may not realise this, but a lot of people around the world certainly do.
In the UK, disposable income for the under-30s has fallen by more than a fifth compared with this time last year, for example. Socialising has become increasingly unaffordable and, as a result, a lot of young people’s social lives have evaporated. I hope that Pichai has been reading the news and realises that many people are suffering right now. If he doesn’t understand why his comments are so irritating amid a cost of living crisis then perhaps he should try Googling it?
• Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist