Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The miracle of full employment

Back home in Australia there are throngs of unemployed who do nothing all day but watch videos, drink VB cans and tend hydroponic gardens in their roof cavity or garage. They could learn a great deal from the Indonesian system, where an entrepreneurial spirit is encouraged and self employment is widespread.

For example, in a huge urban spraw like Jakarta where there are 12 or 15 million residents (depending on which data you read) and where there seems to be more motor cycles, cars and buses than people, the most popular occupation is that of "Ground Traffic Controller". Traffic police do a great job of keeping things moving at major intersections, but it is the uniform-less civilian who owns the most important role in facilitating vehicular travel throughout Jakarta.

So, how does one go about pursuing a career as a traffic controller? Actually, it's much simpler than you would imagine, as there are no tertiary studies involved. In fact, many traffic controllers begin their on-the-job experience before they complete primary school, as they begin their career path in the transportation logistics industry. The basics are (1) find a nearby intersection, street corner, narrow laneway or driveway in front of a shop (2) act confident, as if you've been appointed by someone official to control traffic in that area (3) be brave and step into the path of oncoming traffic and raise your hand (4) hold out your other hand to any drivers that successfully enter the traffic stream during the diversion you created, to collect the optional 500 or 1000 Rupiah fee for service.

For those of you with an artistic bent (notice I didn't use the word "talent"), another option is to buy, borrow or find a guitar or ukelele. Don't be discouraged by missing strings, tone deafness or a lack of musical knowledge, thousands of your peers weren't. Sit around on a street where traffic is known to bank up (this is a given for most streets in Jakarta, so it's not that difficult to decide upon a location), strum the strings and make a noise, any noise with your mouth. When the traffic lights turn red or traffic is at a standstill (again, there are no shortages of opportunities for you to put yourself to work) approach several vehicles and display your new found musical knowledge, in the hope that an appreciative driver or passenger will reward you with some coins. Bear in mind that you will have to strum your instrument quite vigorously and may need to project your vocals somewhat in order to be heard, given that there is considerable ambient noise on the street and the vehicles will have all the windows raised, air conditioner on, and stereo operating.

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