Yesterday we started to look very generally at China’s efficiency problems. Today I would like to introduce you to a few of the most pointless jobs in China that highlight the practices inspired by low wages.
Bus Line Monitor
I see these people standing at each of the bus stops on my way to work each morning. They stand around with their yellow or red arm bands and watch the masses cram in to buses. While their title might imply that these people are in some way responsible for making sure getting on the bus is an orderly process, I have yet to see them do anything to improve the situation.
A common sight throughout China, the receipt stamper is the bored looking man or woman standing at the exit of every supermarket. At first I assumed that they were there to check and make sure I hadn’t tossed any extra items into my bag, but realized that they really didn’t care what I had bought. In many places the store doesn’t even care if you get your receipt stamped or not, I think it is another superfluous step for making a regular receipt an official one. Here in Nanjing it seems to be a method for validating your parking, but it sure seems like something that could be easily handled by the cashier.
Ticket Takers and Ticket Sellers
Even at the most boring of museums in China (or any place that requires a ticket) they have made the work of one person, selling and taking tickets, into two separate jobs. Often there are 4 or 5 people in the sales office, but only one person is actually doing any work, the others are usually drinking tea or napping (the office usually has a cot or comfortable chairs for this purpose).
Perhaps the most perplexing example of this I’ve seen was in Chengdu at the Sichuan Museum. The museum was free to enter but it employed 3 people to hand out tickets, and two more to check them.
Train Crossing Guards
I’ve seen this in small towns throughout China, manual crossing barriers. Usually it is two men who spend the day napping in front of the train crossing office. When a train is coming someone calls them and tells them to lower the gate. At that point the men stop traffic and move the barriers into place and wait for the train to pass. It may be hard to believe but this system was still being used in Beijing in 2006, and is still used throughout the country.
These are just a few examples of the dozens of extra workers throughout China. The reasoning behind this I think are two-fold: 1) Labor is cheap, and 2) Low unemployment is good for stability (as I mentioned before the gov’t loves stability).