Finweek English Edition - - COVER STORY -

Or a crime-scene clean up ex­pert or a UN peace en­voy to Syria or Gaza or even the per­son whose job it will be to un­pick ex­actly how much pub­lic money has been spent at Nkandla. Okay, scratch that one. That would be a great job.

The Ox­ford English Dic­tionary sparked out­rage by sug­gest­ing the ul­ti­mate def­i­ni­tion of me­nial task should be de­fined as: McJob. Flip­ping burg­ers all day is a pretty grim prospect. So is be­ing a Marikana miner ac­cord­ing to NGOs, which at the height of the plat­inum sec­tor cri­sis in Au­gust pointed out the risk-re­ward quo­tient of spend­ing all day un­der­ground as a rock-driller for an es­ti­mated wage of R8 000 a month ranked highly on the list of un­savoury oc­cu­pa­tions when it came to earn­ing a liv­ing.

Turns out that most jobs that mean deal­ing with any­thing to do with hu­man bod­ily func­tions or the prod­uct of those func­tions rank pretty high up on the list. (See box on right.)

For those of us who lan­guish most of the time sip­ping frothy cap­pu­cino’s in air-con­di­tioned com­fort and read with em­pa­thy the an­nual statis­tics of jour­nal­ists killed in the field seek­ing truth in hos­tile en­vi­ron­ments. Re­port­ing in coun­tries like Iraq, Jor­dan, Turk­menistan, Syria, Iran, China and North Korea is dan­ger­ous and some­times makes jour­nal­ism a lifethreat­en­ing oc­cu­pa­tion.

Amer­i­can re­sea rc hers have ranked lum­ber­jack as the worst job of 2012. They cite “haz­ardous work­ing con­di­tions, a like­li­hood of break­ing or los­ing a limb on the job, and poor hir­ing prospects be­cause of low de­mand for lum­ber due to less con­struc­tion”.

That was c l os­ely fol­lowed by the ar­du­ous task of a dairy farmer for whom there is no re­spite from the re­lent­less pur­suit of milk­ing cat­tle – days are long, con­di­tions are of­ten In Tu­dor Eng­land gong farm­ers cleaned and scraped out the long-drop toi­lets. They were only al­lowed to work at night. They got paid twice though. Once for do­ing the job and then for sell­ing the prod­uct out­side the city walls as fer­tiliser for fields and mar­ket gar­dens.

tough and what makes things worse – none of us want to really pay for the prod­uct they pro­duce.

Mil­i­tary per­son­nel rank third be­cause their lives are on the line, daily, they are away from home for long stretches of time which adds to the pres­sures of fam­ily life. Many of the best jobs for 2012 re­quire pro­fi­ciency in sci­ence, maths or tech­nol­ogy.

They are con­sid­er­ably safer than their more phys­i­cal coun­ter­parts. Any­one at the fore­front of the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion is re­garded as hav­ing a great job and they don’t need to be lan­guish­ing in the lux­ury of the Google head of­fice com­plex to qual­ify. White col­lar, cor­po­rate sec­tor jobs are gen­er­ally more de­sir­able than those in the blue col­lar re­al­ity of man­u­fac­tur­ing or agri­cul­ture. Plus they pay con­sid­er­ably more.

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