June 15, 2020

Essential or not?

Are you considered an ‘essential worker’ by your local authorities? If you are, you probably escaped the lockdown relatively unscathed in terms of staying employed. If you aren’t, you might be one of the millions of people affected by layoffs and unemployment.

Which brings us back to the idea of being essential. Or not.

Your local authorities might have an idea of what is essential. Your neighbours might have other views on what is essential. The problem is, who is right?

The fact that a job or role still exists within society means that the specific role is still seen as essential. At least to some. Or at the very least, essential to the one fulfilling the role to help feed his or her family.

If it wasn’t essential, it would have disappeared from the economy.

It’s one thing for local authorities to consider what is essential or not to determine the best way to contain the spread of Covid-19. Whether or not they have done the right thing, or employed the best strategies, I don’t know. But as we come out of lockdown and the easing of social distancing measures, we know that the negative impact is real for many. Many have and are still struggling financially.

However, it’s another thing for those of us not in the position of planning the containment of Covid-19 to determine what is essential or not.

Yes, some roles came into the spotlight because of the lockdown situation.

You have a cushy office job that allowed you to work from home during this period. But preparing lunch is too troublesome and takes up too much time. You don’t want to go out just to buy food since you can’t eat out anyway. So you turn to food delivery to solve your problem. Of course, food delivery became a crucial service for you.

Doctors and nurses are also important because they are the first line of defence against the virus.

But that doesn’t mean that the person who writes the music you listen to all day while you work became non-essential and irrelevant. It doesn’t mean that the person behind your favourite comics, animes or manga provide no real value to society. Or maybe try navigating your local train or subway system without the important work of the graphic designers involved.

At the end of the day, the roles we choose (or end up in via circumstances) to fulfil might not contribute to your convenience. They might not contribute greatly to the country’s GDP. But that doesn’t mean that we should dismiss them as non-essential.

We are all unique in our passions, skills and experiences. We all made choices in our careers to get to where we are today. And we can all contribute value in our own unique ways.

In our culture, we tend to dismiss roles that don’t generate the most income or the greatest convenience. But it’s not right to say that they are non-essential.

How would you feel if someone told you that your job is not essential and doesn’t provide any real value to society?

Essential or not – it’s not even a question that we should be asking.

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