By Ron Singer
from: Sizwe Tik-Boer, Secretary, Planning and Development
South-Central African Consortium of Works & Days
to: All Departmental Undersecretaries (42)
subject: Jobs Initiative
date: 20 October 2014
There is surely no need to remind you that the aggregate rate of unemployment in our region is among the world’s highest. Nor do I need to rehash the underlying causes of this dire situation. Finally, it would be rubbing salt in our own wounds to recall the pledge we so boldly issued at the time of our incorporation a decade ago: “Full Employment by 2014!” All of this information is readily available in the gutter press.
I will remind you, however, that none of our recent initiatives (massive works projects; tax breaks for start-ups, transplants, and old firms that hire new workers; doubling the number of civil servants, to over 700,000; and the radical expedient of paying families not to have children) has so much as made a dent in the unemployment numbers: (2004 regional rate: 37.43%; 2014 rate: 37.34%).
Comrades, it is time for us to think outside the box (which, by the way, is where many of our poorest citizens reside –in cardboard boxes).
In some of the world’s most prosperous cities and nations –places with low unemployment rates– there obtain patterns whereby specific ethnic groups predominate in specific occupations, occupations with which these groups, for various reasons, have been historically and culturally associated. Two examples: in New York City, pace recent diversity initiatives, there remains a predominance of fire fighters and police officers of Irish extraction; judges and lawyers, Jewish; Sanitation workers, Italian; etc. In Honolulu, Hawaii, the pattern is, perhaps, even more pronounced. Unsurprisingly, the Chinese work as merchants and in restaurants; the Japanese, as secretaries and civil servants; and “native” Hawaiians, Samoans, etc., as menials and nightclub entertainers.
In our own region, as well, many jobs employ specific ethnicities, sometimes in shameful ways. Consider the Zulu war dancers who perform for patrons at upscale restaurants, spicing their meals with a frisson of bellicose thrusts and parries. No less obloquious, perhaps, are the township tour guides who offer visitors ethnic meals and a view of “how we, the —- (fill in name of group), live.”
Putting aside, for the moment, the vexed question of stereotyping, let me propose that we could bring tens, even hundreds, of thousands of the unemployed into the workforce by re-organizing, along ethnic lines, jobs presently lurking in the shadow economy. By suiting job to culture, we could marshal pre-existing skills and bring dignity to hitherto despised tasks. No less important, transferred to the regular economy, these jobs could generate substantial tax revenues, not to mention dramatically lowering the official rate of unemployment. To give you an idea, here is a preliminary list:
San/Basarwa: beggars who collect trash from automobile owners at stop lights (foragers).
Zulu & Xhosa*: people who stand watch over parked automobiles (herders).
* To avoid conflict, each of these two major ethnicities could be assigned half the brands of automobile.
San/Basarwa*: touts for restaurants, nightclubs, and other businesses (hunters).
* Allocating two occupations to this single ethnicity can be justified by their astronomical unemployment rate, twice that of any other group in southern Africa.
Whites: organizers, overseers of the above (baases).
The Ball Is in Your Court:
With this concept in mind, each and every Departmental Undersecretary is hereby directed to transmit to my office, by the end of the month, the following:
1. A list of ten (10) other shadow-economy jobs and the ethnicities to which they are best suited.
2. Breakdown by profession/ethnicity of numbers of putative employees.
3. Detailed timetable and cost estimates for implementation.
4. Draft outline of a public relations campaign.
5. 2-3 possible titles for the initiative.
6 (optional) Any constructive criticism you may decide to venture.
Let me close by reminding you that your cooperation in this endeavor is essential to the economic future of our region, not to mention the continued job security of each and every one of you.
NOTE: Owing to the potentially controversial nature of this proposal, and to the fact that it is in the embryonic stage of development, it is essential that the proposal be considered STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL and that it NOT be leaked to members of the press! THIS MEANS YOU!
(signed) GP-N, per SP-B
Secretary, Planning and Development
– Satire by Ron Singer (www.ronsinger.net) has appeared in many publications (The Brooklyn Rail, Coffee Shop Poems, diagram, Evergreen Review, The Journal of Microliterature, Mad Hatter’s Review, nth position, Word Riot, etc). His eighth book,Uhuru Revisited: Interviews with Pro-Democracy Leaders, was issued February 1st, 2015 by Africa World Press/Red Sea Press. This is Singer’s second appearance in Oblong.