I caught up a little with an old work colleague the other day. I hadn’t talked to him in a while. He was a nice enough person but tended to exaggerate his life to comical proportions, so it was hard to know what to believe whenever he updated me about his life. It wasn’t all that long ago that he told me keenly about Navy Officer School, and I’d known him as a Concierge, so… With that pinch of salt, we progress.
He says that now he’s working as a linesman (is that the term?). He climbs telephone poles and does repairwork and such. I’m pretty sure he’s not that physically fit, he never was when I knew him better, but it’s been 2 years. I allow for the possibility.
In any case, he says it’s a much better job. Higher wages, greater job security because of unionization, and he has more days off. Considering that we both came from the hotel industry… I kind of do believe that assessment.
In developed economies we have more and more people trying to get into office jobs, because there’s the old adage that the more paperwork you do, the more important and better your job is. Less manual labour is better, right?
But I was thinking about that internship video. Lots of paperwork jobs require internships now, and internships are increasingly done for little to no pay. This is due to the philosophy that the better your future prospects, the more early sacrifices you have to make. And then you have to work your way through corporate hierarchy.
Manual labour jobs are a bit different. Those in the service industry don’t count, since those are the most easily abused. Restaurant workers and so on usually work hourly wages without formal contracts, in America the hourly wage being below the minimum because the rest is supposedly made up by tips.
But say, something like a specialist job, like a mechanic, plumber or electrician? Here in Switzerland those kinds of jobs are paid ridiculously well, and have the support of labour unions. There are fewer of these jobs around for everyone, but if you land one you’re reasonably secure in terms of employment.
So it’s a little ironic that the traditionally desired jobs, those involving a desk and paperwork, tend to demand more and a longer period of sacrifice with less pay, than some traditional labour jobs.
This isn’t the case in developing countries, because labour tends to be cheaper and the economy still in a state of building its infrastructure, but it might move towards it.