What is a job that exists only in your country? (place-specific labor markets in everything)

by on April 16, 2014 at 7:16 am in Economics, Law | Permalink

Let us start with “Teheran markets in everything”:

I think this happens only in Tehran. Some people get paid to walk behind your car, so the traffic cameras can not capture your plate number when you enter the restricted traffic areas!

The photo alas does not reproduce, and that is from a fascinating Quora discussion on “what is a job that exists only in your country?”

The Vietnamese water bag carriers are impressive (you get into a plastic bag and they pull you across a river).  Here is some Indian arbitrage:

Disabled people get 50-75% concession on train ticket from Indian Railways. Additionally, they can take one person as escort who will be entitled to the same amount of concession.

Some disabled people earn their living with this scheme. Their only job is travelling between different cities and taking Strangers (who actually want to go to some city) as escorts. These strangers pay 75% of the fare to the disabled people. Thus Stranger saves money, Disabled person earns profit.

This also was new to me:

In China, when there are big traffic jams, you can pay a fee to have two people on a motorcycle drive to your vehicle, where one takes your place at the steering wheel, and the other will take you wherever you need to go on his motorcycle.

Nor had I known about the “pet food taster” (Simon and Marks) or the costumes of those Australian Meter Maids.  India is prominent on the list but Mexico makes an appearance as well:

In Mexico we have men who make a living by discharging electricity into the bodies of consenting drunk people (who gladly pay a couple of dollars for the experience). These men usually hang around bars and areas where nightlife abounds and yell “toques toques!”(“discharges, discharges!”) while banging the two metallic handles of their contraption together. The device is a battery-operated metal box with a voltage regulator that can increase the intensity of the electrical current depending on how much the customer can take. It is generally accepted by Mexicans that a bit of electricity will increase your buzz…

It costs about $2-$4 per jolt.  Maybe the real winner should be this one:

United States of America: Man who walks on the moon (currently on hiatus).

I believe I owe thanks to somebody on Twitter, alas I can no longer recall to whom.

1 John B. Chilton April 16, 2014 at 7:55 am

Precision marcher of exactly the right size and shape.

2 Andrew M April 16, 2014 at 7:58 am

The job of creating television commercials for prescription medication.

This actually exists in two countries, the U.S.A. and New Zealand. Nowhere else in the world allows them.

3 Mister mister April 16, 2014 at 10:54 am

my two favorite countries. I prefer nz immigration policy though, which explicitly favors Anglo Saxons and the highly skilled with job offers. No cheap tortillas there though.

4 Espalda mojada April 16, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Maybe in New Zealand you can have sheep mow your lawn, but can they put a new roof on your house?

5 JWatts April 16, 2014 at 8:43 pm

According to the movies, houses in New Zealand have grass on the roof, so the sheep take care of both.


6 Slocum April 16, 2014 at 12:51 pm

And yet, in many countries, many drugs are available OTC but would require a prescription in the U.S., for example:

“Colombian pharmacies stock all kinds of drugs, and medication can be cheaper than in Western countries. There are few restricted drugs; almost everything is sold over the counter.”

A drug market (as in the U.S.) where advertising is permitted, but access is tightly restricted, isn’t actually very open in practice.

7 Nancy April 16, 2014 at 9:49 pm

5% of the world population lives in US – and consumes 80% (!!) of narcotic analgesics prescriptions. So much for the access being tightly restricted!

8 Oriol April 16, 2014 at 8:02 am

Quora is MR’s main competitor!

9 Todd April 16, 2014 at 8:23 am

I wonder if there are truly successful pro-gun rights lobbyists outside of the U.S.. I remember reading something about fledgling efforts at a pro-gun rights lobby in Russia (of course). But most stories about gun industry/advocacy lobbyists around the world seem to involve them bemoaning the loss of status in the civil rights calculus within their own society.

This is different from mere weapons dealers and other gun/ammo mongers.

10 Alexei Sadeski April 16, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Brazil, New Zealand.

11 Alexei Sadeski April 16, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Oops I’m wrong about Brazil.

The population voted overwhelmingly to affirm private gun ownership, then the government banned ownership over their heads.

12 ant1900 April 16, 2014 at 8:26 am

US: crossing days off of a giant calendar (stolen from Matt Levine: http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-04-16/, under the heading “It’s about the journey”)

Levine is one of the best bloggers going right now.

13 Dick King April 17, 2014 at 8:56 am
14 dearieme April 16, 2014 at 8:42 am

Does Mr Bigears’ job of pretending to be President count?

15 prior_approval April 16, 2014 at 9:11 am

Only if having a professional actor play the role of president does.

16 ivar April 16, 2014 at 10:51 am

Since one could act well and the other can’t even tie his shoelaces, it’s clear that only the professionals count.

17 Strick April 16, 2014 at 8:54 am

We took a bus tour from London a couple of weeks ago. On the station wall was a sign warning bus drivers not to reverse without a “rear end supervisor”. We’ve been assuming they employ people whose title is Rear End Supervisor ever since…

18 ummm April 16, 2014 at 9:08 am

Class warfare instigator
America apologist
ambulance chaser

19 neagrigore April 16, 2014 at 9:20 am

There are people paid to watch the tram traffic in order to notify the drivers on the commute buses (Romania). They sit in the tram station near the place where the commute buses stop and check if there is a tram car coming = more passengers for the commute bus. They have a small seat and spend their entire day.

20 Hadur April 16, 2014 at 9:49 am

I believe a small number of European countries (primarily in the Benelux region) have a government official whose job is to tell the monarch the results of the parliamentary elections. The purpose for this is to ensure that the monarch (who must formally select the next Prime Minister, and therefore needs to know which party won and who their leader is) gets non-biased, accurate information.

21 Alec Cawley April 16, 2014 at 9:55 am

The UK has numerous left over jobs from earlier times: Black Rod, Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds, Yeoman Warder of the Guard (Beefeater). Two City companies have a Swan Warden,

22 Kit Sunde April 16, 2014 at 9:56 am

At the ferry station going to Boracay you purchase an RFID ticket and give it to a person that sweeps them on the Turnstile for you.

23 Rahul April 16, 2014 at 9:57 am

There were guys on the Bombay train stations rumored to be selling informal monthly insurance against ticketless travel on the system. Thought that was kinda unique.

24 dead serious April 16, 2014 at 12:03 pm

I picture this job possibly existing in India as well. If not, add it to the list.


25 Rahul April 16, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Not needed. Doors don’t close.

26 Chris April 16, 2014 at 10:12 am
27 J April 16, 2014 at 10:50 am

Beat me to it.

28 Anon April 16, 2014 at 10:14 am

Upto the 1960s in my village in South India ( and presumably many other places then ) ,in the movie theater, there was a translator who would stand at the back and shout out the translation of every single line of the Hindi film dialogue into Telugu (the local language spoken by about 7 to 8% of Indians). When he attempted to translate the songs also , everyone shouted him down, since all preferred to hear melodious songs which they didn’t understand rather than his cacophonous version.
At temples in India , if there are beggars (pan handlers), there will be a person sitting ahead of them who will change the currency notes to coins of the smallest denomination so that you can distribute to more of them.

29 Dave Barnes April 16, 2014 at 10:36 am

Admiral of carrier task force. USA only.
Other countries have carriers, but they don’t have real task forces.

Captain of nuclear-powered carrier. USA only.

Pilot of most advanced fighter in the world (F-22), USA only.

30 agorabum April 17, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Mars robot driver – USA only
Outer-solar system spacecraft controller (voyager 1 and 2)

31 AndrewL April 16, 2014 at 10:39 am

NYC – Professional Line waiter? http://ny.racked.com/archives/2014/03/25/sold.php

You can pay someone to wait on line for you whether it be a new phone, a cronut, exclusive apparel, etc. Apparently some people don’t want to feel left out, and don’t have the time to wait in line. does this happen anywhere else?

32 GiT April 16, 2014 at 10:57 am


33 dead serious April 16, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Mouse-infested cronut at that.

34 U April 16, 2014 at 11:34 am

Paying someone to get electrocuted is also somewhat common in Colombia. People join hands to see who breaks the chain first.

35 Ramon April 16, 2014 at 3:15 pm

I remember doing that many times in high school in Mexico.
Quite trilling

36 tt April 16, 2014 at 11:59 am

Koch funded economist. (USA! USA!)

37 Slocum April 16, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Sure about that? After all, apparently Charles Koch has been a member of the Mt Pelerin Society for decades. He may have been engaging in the curiously nefarious activity of spending his own money to support liberal causes he believes in…worldwide!

38 tt April 16, 2014 at 2:05 pm

the ‘liberal’ views of the Mt Pelerin Society (from their webpage):
“…they see danger in the expansion of government, not least in state welfare, in the power of trade unions and business monopoly, and in the continuing threat and reality of inflation.. “

39 Slocum April 16, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Obviously (or maybe not) I used ‘liberal’ in the original (and non U.S.-centric) sense of the word. AKA ‘classical liberal’.

40 andrew' April 16, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Notice we nearly double 90%+ of everyone else’s GDP utilizing everyone else’s human capital.

If government funded more economists less willing to screw the golden goose I’m sure oligarchs would prefer more yachts.

41 Bill April 16, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Related to the Indian handicapped rail fare arbitrage, there was once handicapped time arbitrage in Disney parks:


but then Disney changed their policy to eliminate it:


42 Ramon April 16, 2014 at 3:22 pm

In Cuba some people work as “coleros” or queuers, people that waits on a queue to sell the place.

43 Mark Brophy April 16, 2014 at 1:54 pm

We employ “sign dancers” in the USA. They hold a sign, to advertise a business, at busy intersections to attract passing motorists. Billboards and other large signs are illegal in most of the so-called “capitalist” country, making “sign dancers” necessary to evade the restriction.

44 tt April 16, 2014 at 2:07 pm

“Billboards and other large signs are illegal in most of the so-called “capitalist” country…”

thats not the reason “sign dancers” exist but you already know that

45 Urso April 16, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Mostly seen these in California. I would imagine it is very city-specific as to relative cost of hiring a dude with a sign vs. putting up a billboard, plus the regulatory hoops needed for each.

46 Rahul April 16, 2014 at 2:41 pm

It’s not just cost. I think the impact is different too.

47 Clay April 16, 2014 at 4:07 pm

I’ve seen this a lot of places in mid-sized cities. Sometimes for sandwich shops or mattress sales, lately for a tax service. Do people really go get their taxes done because they see a guy in a Statue of Liberty suit?

48 Ted April 16, 2014 at 4:46 pm

This concept originated in Mexico.

49 Oldie April 17, 2014 at 7:10 am

We have them in Sydney too, although very few.

50 whatsthat April 16, 2014 at 2:36 pm

the more unique labor jobs there are, the more the disguised unemployment

all hail India, King of the ZMP

51 Peter April 16, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Any jobs relating to a country’s sports leagues are unique to that country.

52 dearieme April 16, 2014 at 3:36 pm

There was that South African niche – lunatic who pretends to be signer for the deaf.

53 Abersouth April 16, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Pope- Vatican city

54 Jonathan April 16, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Baseball Replay Umpire: US

55 Ted April 16, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Also Toronto.

56 Govco April 16, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Professional litigants (e.g., a handicapped guy “working” for a lawyer that visits 2,000 stores a year to identifiy violation and sue under California’s ADA, or a convicted criminal dropping off 1,000s of job applications, etc. Previously seen with securities litigation by “plaintiffs” who own de minimis shares in 1,000s of companies.)

Also, professional dog walkers and doggie daycare?

Land Trust executive?

Gun running/state senator (e.g., Leland Yee)?

57 andrew' April 16, 2014 at 5:13 pm

Surely someone must do the used panty quality control in japan. Imagine the embarrassment of someone getting unused panties.

58 cliff arroyo April 17, 2014 at 3:57 am

Certainly ‘foodie economic blogger’ is not a job description in many countries….

59 Stefanie Van Hoof April 17, 2014 at 6:03 am

Due to an old Napoleonitic law, there are “willy-inspectors” who check the baby’s after a home birth if they’re the sex that has been filed. In hospitals, doctors check it but with home births, midwives are not official enough. In Napoleon’s times, people would declare their boy was a girl so he/she would escape army duty.

60 Stefanie Van Hoof April 17, 2014 at 6:04 am

In Japan, the subway employs men who push commuters into the vehicles. There’s always room for one more!

61 Kyle N April 17, 2014 at 9:15 am

Producer of coca-flavored food products in Bolivia. There might be some of these in Peru, but at least not on the scale of it as in Bolivia.

62 Nathan W April 17, 2014 at 10:11 am

Anything sugar bush-related.

Some New Englanders are getting more into the business too, but I think they are more into commercial production than good ol’ French Canadian sugar bush traditions.

It’s one of the few things that is emphatically Quebecois / French Canadian in nature. I would go so far as to say that if the sugar bush you visit is not French Canadian / Quebecois, then it’s not quite the real thing for the tourist experience.

63 Nathan W April 17, 2014 at 10:11 am

Mountie. OK, that’s just a uniform. Federal police are not unique to Canada.

64 Nathan W April 17, 2014 at 10:14 am

Inuit social services worker.

65 Nathan W April 17, 2014 at 10:16 am

Language police (Quebec)

66 Anecdote April 17, 2014 at 12:48 pm

In France, the “feutier” is the person in charge of special pilgrim candles-related duties particular to the Lourdes sanctuary.

67 Anecdote April 17, 2014 at 12:55 pm

In France, a “sanglier” is a person in charge of collecting ans crafting acacia barks used in a particular cheese named “Vacherin” making process.

68 mkt April 17, 2014 at 2:01 pm

A couple of possible categories, although I don’t know if these are truly unique to the USA:

Counselors/consultants to help parents get their toddlers admitted to prestigious private pre-schools. For that matter, New York’s the only place where I’ve read of this sort of market.

Drive-thru fast food — and coffee, banking, pharmacies, and weddings.

Also, these jobs no longer exist but the Japanese used to have “benshi”: narrators who would talk to the audience while a silent film was playing.

69 ezra abrams April 17, 2014 at 8:56 pm

academy award seat filler ?

70 Current April 18, 2014 at 10:19 am

In Ireland there’s a man who’s job is to look after tourists kissing the Blarney Stone. He holds their legs while they kiss it this is because the stone can only be reached by leaning out of a window. When they’ve finished he wipes the stone so it’s clean (or at least a bit cleaner) for the next tourist.

Above Strick mentions the “Rear End Supervisor”. Reversing is a tricky business, sometimes a pro is employed to watch other drivers reverse, or sometimes a pro is employed to do the reversing while the normal driver watches. I worked at a place that employed a professional reverser, an ice-cream van company in England, he reversed ice-cream vans all day.

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