Some Curious Facts about Work
One of the most curious facts about work is that many people don’t know whether to see it as a privilege or a curse, as work involves both effort and sacrifice. In addition, it can sometimes bring difficulties and limitations.
Workers have always been around. In fact, much of our physical, mental, and social evolution is due to productive activities. However, nowadays, we’re reaching a point where many human tasks can be done by machines. Indeed, this is becoming more evident by the day.
Work isn’t disappearing. Nevertheless, there’s a possibility that it might start to become more specialized and creative. As a matter of fact, we already live in a society where those with the most knowledge are the most prized. Without a doubt, this is going to become increasingly relevant.
Since the beginning of capitalism, working hours have been a much-debated subject. In fact, International Workers’ Day commemorates the tragic events of May 1, 1886, in Chicago. On this day, several workers lost their lives when they held a strike demanding an eight-hour working day.
A century ago, worker’s hours weren’t regulated. It was usual to work 12 hours a day from Monday to Sunday. Some people worked even longer hours. All of this was legal. In fact, regulated working hours, which are now in force in most parts of the world, are the result of hard-fought struggles by workers.
Currently, there’s no full agreement on the optimum number of hours to be devoted to working. However, rest is now considered as important as work. This is because a tired worker is far more unproductive.
Salary, another hard-won battle
The word salary comes from the Latin salarium. It means “to pay with salt”. In fact, in Ancient Rome, it was common for soldiers to be paid in salt. This element was scarce and highly valued, as it helped to preserve food and give it flavor.
Throughout the course of history, workers have been paid in many different ways. Sometimes, they were paid with goods, as in the case of salt. They could also be paid by being given the right to live in a house or on a piece of land. In the early years of capitalism, every company had the freedom to pay workers what they wanted. Workers could even be paid with three meals a day. However, this was, effectively, a covert form of slavery.
The first time a minimum wage was agreed upon was in New Zealand in 1894. Nevertheless, in many countries, there was no agreed basic wage until well into the 20th century. There remain many inequalities worldwide in the limit of the minimum wage. The best level is in Geneva (Switzerland) where it’s approximately 3,500 euros per month. The worst is Zambia with 0.1 euros per month.
More facts about work
People often consider police work to be the most dangerous in the world. However, contrary to this belief, the work of garbage collectors, taxi drivers, and waiters has higher death rates at work.
Nevertheless, these aren’t the only dangerous occupations. It’s been established that there are high-tension jobs such as bus drivers, nurses, and assembly line workers. These cause high levels of stress because they’re psychologically demanding. Furthermore, these kinds of workers are more at risk of developing atrial fibrillation (heart disease).
Obsession with work is a relatively recent phenomenon. Indeed, until not so long ago, people highly valued rest, and they only overworked if it was strictly necessary. Nowadays, many get anxious when they’re not working and feel guilty when they relax. That really is a curious fact.It might interest you...
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Hopenhayn, M. (2001). Repensar el trabajo: historia, profusión y perspectivas de un concepto. Buenos Aires: Grupo Editorial Norma.