What foreign residents in China see as “unproductive” or “non-essential” work, the Chinese themselves might see as essential, even if only in terms of helping the aged or the unemployable find “work.” If this is the motivation, then it seems more benevolent than other practices that artificially swell the ranks of the employed, including feather bedding that has occured in many nations, including those of the West.
Unlike certain cities in east China, here in Kunming we don’t yet have such “make work jobs” as bus line “monitors” to maintain order and keep people from crushing each other as they get on city buses, but maybe we should! Occasionally gangs of pick-pockets will push people boarding the bus until they’re squeezed so tight that they can neither move nor feel their personal items being stolen. Maybe if the bus monitors would wield those long white truncheons in the same way train station guards do in order to bop unruly passengers on the head who are pushing and hopping barriers to board trains, the bus monitors would be earning their keep and doing everyone a service.
We do have supermarket receipt stampers who, as you say, are everywhere in China. I can only surmise as to why they stamp sales receipts all day: Someone buys fifty dollars worth of goods and goes out and dumps them in his car. Then he goes back into the store with the empty sacks and fills them up again with the exact same goods and walks out the door showing the unstamped receipt to anyone who asks. This might sound ridiculous at first blush, but thieves in China, as anywhere else, are extremely creative, though I would think that in terms of contributing to the GDP they rank near the bottom.
One of the more tiring jobs I used to wonder at was the long hours young women had to (and still do) stand at the doors of restaurants and greet customers who come to dine. If it were a career extending beyond youth it would mean varicose veins and other leg problems, but since it isn’t long term it just means extreme boredom and fatigue. Whether or not this kind of job has an efficiency quotient, I’m not sure.
Of another sort of work, old women would sweep the streets and old couples in residential compounds would sell bicycle parking stubs in the day and sleep at night in barred enclosures with the bicycles. It was a way for the aged and unemployed with very limited prospects to gain a livelihood. But these jobs are disappearing rapidly as water trucks and mechanized street sweepers clean city streets and cadres of young men in pressed uniforms make the rounds to protect the homes and vehicles of city residents.
Reading news stories over the weekend I came across something that made me think that there might be many employed individuals in America who are simply “making work,” too. Two young people ostensibly “working” as reporters for the New York Post, Rebecca and C.J. (last names withheld to protect them from embarrassment) are able to misuse the English language–the primary tool of their trade–with the same wild abandon as Chinese students, but Chinese have the excuse that English is not their native language.
B’klyn tyke mowed down By REBECCA HARSHBARGER and C.J. SULLIVAN (capital letters not mine)
“A 5-year-old boy…was mowed down…by a meat-delivery truck…”
Vain and feckless is the only way to describe Rebecca and C.J.’s use of the term “mowed down.” You can’t accidentally mow down a lone child on a Big Wheels tricycle. The object of the verb mow down is usually a large number of something, anything, like soldiers charging your position or blades of grass standing between you and a televised football game. Mowing down is intentional, and often indiscriminate, not accidental. The only way the “tyke” could have been mowed down was if he and a half-dozen of his buddies were blocking the road with fixed bayonets, then you could say the truck mowed them down.
In addition, such “reporting” is both brazen and reckless, because how do you think the parents of the child felt when they read that their baby was “mowed down” in the street? I think Rebecca and C.J. should be sent over to Wal-Mart to stamp shopping receipts for the rest of the day.
The above was written as a comment on the below blog’s post: http://seeingredinchina.com/2011/05/17/four-jobs-that-highlight-china%e2%80%99s-inefficiency/