Friday, January 28, 2011
Earn and Lounge
The other day I was walking through the Tekra and ran into this woman. She was going through that sack of shredded paper, separating out any shreds that had color on them from the pure white. Some nearby business had been bringing in sack after sack, and paying for the work. Why mounds of pure white shredded paper are better than ones with color, I can't quite say. The woman said she was paid Rs.1 for each kilo of separated shreds. And it takes about 30 minutes to do a kilo, so that's Rs.2/hour (less than five cents).
Seems meager, and also a bit sub-human. But on another day I was with a group of volunteers walking by the same house and saw the entire family out doing the shred sorting. They were working together, and though focused on the task at hand, had smiles on their faces. We stopped to chit-chat and offer some chai, which they took gladly. Didn't seem like they were in much distress, or depressed. Almost seemed like they would have all been out there that day like that whether they had the shreds to sort or not. But with the shreds at least they were earning while doing timepass. Not quite earn and learn, but for a bit I was conflicted about whether I could completely knock what was going on.
My sense is it's a short run/long run tradeoff, similar to sweat shops. In the short run, it's an opportunity to earn more than you otherwise would (by default). In the long run, it erodes and then stunts the human capacity of the community.
Posted by Neil Patel at 6:43 AM