The Jobless Recovery

Megan McArdle gives 8 reasons why people might not have personal servants any more, even if they are rich enough to afford them.

The interesting part is that seven of the eight (all but #6) apply just as well to any business who might be hiring, and go part of the way to explaining why we have jobless recoveries nowadays.


  1. a_random_guy:

    All very true, and some of these reasons (#6) are quite perceptive.

    Our business is in a building that that was designed as a single-family home plus space for three live-in servants. The family that built the house a century ago was quite wealthy. However, as the article observes, the mother stayed home to supervise the household work. Looking at the renovations, we are fairly certain that the live-in servants had been eliminated by 1940 or so - at that point, it was already uneconomical.

    Today, we run a business in the building. For many of the reasons cited, we outsource everything we can. Cleaning personnel? They get sick, they need vacation, they quit - we just want the building cleaned. Outsource to a company that deals with all the headaches. This applies to many other areas as well. For example: it would theoretically be more economical for us to produce all our printed material in-house - but we still send the work to a local printer, because we don't want to deal with maintenance issues. The same for other aspects of the business.

    Do note: this doesn't mean that the jobs don't exist. Using this as a premise for the "jobless recovery" is not correct. The jobs do exist, but someone else deals with the personnel, maintenance, supplies, etc..

  2. Bram:

    I did a semester abroad and lived with a Middle Class family in Sri Lanka who had a servant. It never stopped feeling strange to me.

  3. blokeinfrance:

    Number 7 on her list. It's the combination of privacy and technology that dissuades people from hiring. Who wants pictures of your underwear on facebook if you criticise the cleaning lady?
    Having said that I'm sympathetic to Col Gaddifi whose sons' porn collection has no doubt been uploaded to youtube, maybe I can add this:
    Modern parents are aware that social mobility cuts both ways. Far better to do some work yourself so that you can enlist the kids and teach them, so you can wave them goodbye to college / job confident that they (even the males) can make a bed, boil an egg, disinfect a etc...