Are more people working in pointless jobs?
By Joe Harker
When someone is working nine to five (what a way to make a living) they may be struck by the feeling that their job is neither rewarding nor useful.
It's only natural that someone would want to think about what they spend half their waking hours doing and wondering what they achieve. Unfortunately, some come to the conclusion that they're stuck in a pointless job, where the work they do isn't actually needed.
Professor David Graber suggests that up to 40 per cent of people working may be in pointless jobs. He has written an book "Bullsh-t Jobs: A Theory", outlining a number of sectors where people may be employed in such jobs. He examined the theory from economist John Maynard Keynes that by 2000 advancements in technology would have resulted in a 15-hour working week. He said: "Technological unemployment, as he called it, did happen.
"People have been talking about the rise of the robots, saying it's nonsense - people have been saying that for years. But actually it did happen; it's just that we made up jobs for people to seem to be working."
He compares this to the latter days of the Soviet Union, where the government invented jobs to keep everyone employed, suggesting that modern governments need to avoid a population with too much leisure time because "a happy and productive population with free time on their hands is a mortal danger". Professor Graber argues that many jobs are more occupations, designed to keep people busy above all and it is helped by society's view of employment as a "moral value".
Attitudes of society may change in time. By 2025 the "millennial" generation could make up around 75 per cent of the working population and one of their key aspirations is for their work to make an impact.
However, as fanciful as it might be to call for doing away with pointless jobs, thus freeing millions from the shackles of mundanity, there are several practical problems. Jobs lead to money. If you don't have money then you can't pay for things, if you can't pay for things then you die, therefore you need a job of some sort to make money.
While it would be nice to try and find meaningful work for everyone, the fact that a significant portion of jobs are arguably pointless would suggest that there isn't enough to go around. At least if everyone continues to work full time. Shifting to part time work where the jobs not considered pointless are shared by more people has long been a suggestion for coping with mechanisation, but that would require a significant rethink when it is easier to ensure everyone has a job rather than changing the nature of a job itself.