Thursday 29 March 2012: Developing Theme: Jobs
Walking around campus today, I saw this construction site. They're laying the footings for another walkway on campus. (Least, I think that's what it's for.) You might notice a few things odd about this construction site. Okay, yes, they're not wearing hard hats and yes, it's pretty accessible to the students (which would NEVER fly in the US). But let me tell you what I noticed: 1) There's a wheelbarrow and it's being used. 2) There's no mechanized equipment aside from the concrete drum in the back right. 3) Every person on this job site is ACTUALLY doing something. These are rare things on US construction sites! At least, in my experiences with them.
This is something interesting here in Brazil. There seems to be a plethora of jobs that people are still doing, whereas in the US and assumable Europe (let's not forget Canada), these tasks are all performed by machines. For example, here in Brazil there are two people who always ride in a bus- the driver, and the guy you pay. In the US, we either pay the driver, or swipe a card into a machine when we enter the bus. We've made ourselves very "efficient" through dependency on mechanization, but what are we really saving in the end?
The reality is that here in Brazil human labor is cheap relative to importing construction equipment. So they use human labor. It's tough work, but it does mean more jobs for more people. Would we be forced to build things more slowly if we didn't have machines? Would the buildings, etc. be less safe if they relied solely on humans? With environmental crises appearing on the horizon, will we have to answer these questions for real some day?