Those new service sector jobs is this one in fact torture?

Imagine: For the rest of your life, you are assigned no tasks at work. You can watch movies, read books, work on creative projects or just sleep. In fact, the only thing that you have to do is clock in and out every day. Since the position is permanent, you’ll never need to worry about getting another job again.

Starting in 2026, this will be one lucky (or extremely bored) worker’s everyday reality, thanks to a government-funded conceptual art project in Gothenburg, Sweden. The employee in question will report to Korsvägen, a train station under construction in the city, and will receive a salary of about $2,320 a month in U.S. dollars, plus annual wage increases, vacation time off and a pension for retirement. While the artists behind the project won’t be taking applications until 2025, when the station will be closer to opening, a draft of the help-wanted ad is already available online, as Atlas Obscura reported on Monday.

The job’s requirements couldn’t be simpler: An employee shows up to the train station each morning and punches the time clock. That, in turn, illuminates an extra bank of fluorescent lights over the platform, letting travelers and commuters know that the otherwise functionless employee is on the job. At the end of the day, the worker returns to clock out, and the lights go off. In between, they can do whatever they want, aside from work at another paying job.

That is by Antonia Noori Farzan at WaPo.  The project is called “Eternal Employment.”

For the pointer I thank Peter Sperry.


It all depends on what you’re banned from doing. If you could live a full online life, you would likely be fine.

1979 all over again

Aw, this was an incredibly nice post. Taking a
few minutes and actual effort to generate a good article…
but what can I say… I put things off a whole lot and never manage to get
anything done.

Sounds like a great job for a scholar or writer or artist. It's like having a permanent paid sabbatical, although that salary is presumably a lot less than what a professor in Sweden earns. But the professor has to teach classes and serve on committees.

Since the worker can’t work at any other job, would he/she be pemitted to showcase or sell the art created or the books written? Perhaps they could build up an archive for sale upon retirement. Or is that permitted?

This may be apocryphal, but I've heard of exactly this happening in Australia after responsibility for the rail roads was transferred from the federal to state governments.

The union employees reported to a building every day, sat around for 8 hours, and then went home...

I couldn't do it!

Sounds like the teachers in NYC that are on disciplinary.

The Rubber Room

How is this different from monastic life?

Monasteries are generally required to contribute to their own upkeep at least. For example, there's the famous line of Trappist beers (

If this is torture, what is a jail sentence?

It sounds much like being a bridgetender on the Chicago River: you sit in a glassed-in tower overlooking the river waiting for sailboats to come along in spring and fall heading to or from Lake Michigan and you push a button to raise the bridge. I can recall going to a seminar in Chicago on how to make a living as a poet, and one recommendation was to become active in the Chicago Democratic machine and try to eventually get one of the coveted bridgetender jobs.

"Art", smh. It used to mean something.

I have always had a certain sneaking admiration for Warhol's quip that 'art is what you can get away with,' to be honest.

The nerve wrecking thing about jobs with little to do is the need to pretend being busy. I know this from experience. But this mostly applies to office jobs with coworkers around. Being able to do what I want (eg. read, watch, work on personal stuff, sleep)...this can only be torture for people with a compulsive need to "do something productive".

I was once hired to guard a Tug Boat engine from 12 midnight to 8 am every morning 5 days a week. Tub boat engines are huge. Rather unlikely anyone was going to (be able to) steal it. Most of the boat is the engine. It had been removed for repairs. Insurance required a guard.
Not a human being in sight, only the occasional rodent and the sound of the SF Bay outside. Didn't have to pretend to do anything because my job was merely to be there, which I was. Best gig I ever had.

In Japan there is lifetime employment, so to lay off a worker you have to get him to quit, usually induced by a separation package. But some people just won't go.

They get assigned to do nothing. It drives them crazy and it is humiliating, since nobody will talk to them or eat lunch with them.

Technically, it's illegal, but people don't know their rights.

It's becoming less common as companies use staffing companies, contract employees (different from seishaiin lifetime employees), and part timers more. But the best employees insist on lifetime.

Interesting, kinda depressing - that there's not an equally satisfactory home life waiting for the superannuated. This reminded me of my grandfather, with whom I was not at all close; in fact my only memory of exchanging words with him was once in the midst of my prattle to my grandmother, he corrected my pronunciation of a word. He was a banker - it seemed like he was the bank. It was 95% of his life, and then he'd come home in the evening, kiss his wife 50s sitcom-style, have a Scotch, and after dinner his head would drop on his chest and he'd fall asleep at the table (it occurs to me maybe the evening Scotch wasn't an isolated drink in his banker's day). I guess as a little girl I felt enough affection for him that I alone seemed to be worried when he retired at 71. He will still have an office, they said, if he wants to go in. This struck me as a dreadful come-down and besides, what on Earth was he going to do all day? Before a year was out, he failed to wake up one morning, on a fishing trip down at his club on the bay. That sleep apnea: old man's friend I guess.

Witness Mr. Sven, a man who thought the risk of losing his job and ending up destituted, as happened with his father, was crushing his soul and making his life joyless. He wished he had a PERMANENT position.
Well, even after teletransport made his job obsolete, Mr. Sven still mans this abandoned train station. He has done it for five centuries and certainly will do it for other five centuries. Unlike most of us, Mr. Sven doesn't need to worry about fierce competition in today's job market. Mr. Sven earned job security in the Twilight Zone.

What an amazing increase in productivity, if adequately measured. Producing $2.300 plus per month with only a couple of minutes effective work daily. Wow!

The midwest (and other regions) have lots of industrial facilities that closed when manufacturing was shifted to places with lower costs. When the companies departed, many if not most left the equipment in the building, heavy industrial equipment. The equipment will rust if not properly oiled. So many of these empty facilities have a single employee, whose job is to keep the equipment oiled so it won't rust. I visited several of these facilities, and they are eerie. Large manufacturing facilities fully equipped but silent. The oil man goes about his work with dedication, and pride in the condition of the abandoned equipment. Rather than employees who do nothing, America has manufacturing facilities that do nothing. Lots of them. And a dedicated employee in each, oiling the equipment that sits idle in the dimly lit building never to be used again. It must be torture for the lonely oilman, whose memory of the once-might industrial juggernaut slowly fades away.

They stay that for a little while, then the machinery is auctioned off and shipped out of the US. Still making stuff for us, but elsewhere.

Jessie White made a fairly lucrative career, so I'm told, of doing something similar.

Why not just spend each and every shift sleeping, then use your off hours to work another job? Getting paid to sleep sounds like a pretty sweet gig.

I fail to see how on earth you enforce the no other work clause. With even marginal effort you can secure some online work in a different jurisdiction, which I think means you could just pay the taxes there and Sweden does not care. Even if they wish to get a cut, you need only find someplace willing to undertake the hassle of converting local currency to bitcoin and then you have a nice offshore bank account with which to travel and vacation in style.

Frankly my guess is it will just go to someone who really likes playing computer games.

" thanks to a government-funded conceptual art project in Gothenburg, Sweden..."

It's nice that Sweden has absolutely no actual problems.

That's hardly new. Any communist country had millions of such jobs. Except, without the fluorescent light, since said countries weren't able to produce energy. Or toilet paper.

Is the swamp just trying to taunt us now?

That job already exists for tens of thousands of people especially in the public sector. Hell it's my own job as my supervisor only cares if I clock in/out, I make six figures, and I might do, if you are lucky, ten minutes of work a month. Been like that for twenty years and I'm perfectly happy with it. TBH the only torturous part of it is the clocking itself and the asinine pro forma commute. I don't even pretend to work like others talk about. I put a cot to sleep on in my office (and sleep on it door open); I will also clock in and then go drink coffee at the coffee shop for hours.

I'm in a similar situation. Been doing the same job for years now, six-figure income, and I work a couple of hours a week. I'm in the private sector, for what it's worth. During the work day, I spend a couple of hours playing video games with my friend, who works an office job for a different private sector company in a different state. I also read and write for several hours a day — I've published a short story collection that was written on the job and now I'm working on a novel and screenplay, both of which have been 100% written on my work computer during working hours. Writing is especially easy to get away with because all people hear is the clickety clack of my keyboard. My employer is basically a patron of the arts at this point.

There was a reddit thread recently about which browser games people played in the office, and there were hundreds or maybe thousands of comments, many of them describing similar situations where they did nothing but play games all day, and the only work they did was coming up with clever tricks to hide that fact. My favorite such tricks were the games designed to look like Outlook and Excel, among other programs.

Less than $30K per year, pre-tax, in a really expensive country? This is chicken feed. Hope that guy doesn't ever have to support a family.

Americans generally seem to have a blind spot in not recognizing how much wealthier people in the U.S. are compared to the rest of the world, even most of the developed world.

The median disposable income in Sweden is slightly higher than Kentucky and a little lower than Montana or South Carolina.

The proposed salary is on the low end for Sweden, but it's pretty comparable for an artist, or a tailor, for example. Certainly enough for an individual to live on.

I kind of feel it is mostly liberals who are inclined to this blind spot.

Those new service sector jobs is this one in fact torture?

Sounds like just the job I'm looking for! But I can't move there, so I'd like to phone it in. (I'd accept half the pay for being able to phone it in.)

How is that meaningfully different from receiving UBI?

Sounds like tenure. That person can say what they want and not get fired. Start shit posting on twitter, make a youtube channel, whatever. No risk.

Best do-nothing job I ever had was working night security ... at a sorority house. All I had to do was chat up the girls while in uniform. Yes, some women like a man in a uniform.

The only "work" I had was to do rounds every hour or so. Occasionally a resident would bring home a drunk date that I'd have to chase off but that didn't happen very often. And after everyone went to bed I did homework on the clock.

something similar was explored on the tv show "Lost." Desmond lived inside "the hatch" and his only responsibility was to punch a number sequence into a computer every hour and a half (or so). After three years of this, he was ready to commit suicide.

Yes, but that would have interrupted his sleep, there was nothing else for him to do and he didn't have a normal life outside of work. Not at all comparable.

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