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One In 20 People Work ‘Bullsh*t Jobs’, Researchers Find

by : Julia Banim on : 05 Jun 2021 10:38
One In 20 People Work 'Bullsh*t Jobs', Researchers FindWarner Bros./NBC

Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Birmingham have discovered that one in 20 workers are employed in so-called ‘bullsh*t jobs’, a figure that is considerably lower than had previously been thought.

The concept of ‘bullsh*t jobs’ was first put forward by American anthropologist David Graeber, who passed away in September 2020, with the purpose of highlighting connections between having a sense of purpose at work and psychological wellbeing.

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Jobs that fell within this ‘bullsh*t’ category – in Graeber’s eyes – included doormen, receptionists, lobbyists and PR specialists, as well as corporate lawyers and legal consultants.

Officer workers at laptops (SnappyGoat)SnappyGoat

Testing out Graeber’s propositions, researchers examined the 2005 to 2015 European Working Conditions Surveys (EWCS), looking at reasons that led to respondents giving a ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ answer to the statement: ‘I have the feeling of doing useful work’.

Graeber believed that between 20% and 50% of workers – and potentially as many as 60% – had jobs that fitted within this bullsh*t category.

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However, data from the EWCS showed that only 4.8% of EU workers reported that did not feel they were employed in useful work. This figure was found to be a bit higher in the UK and Ireland, but even then this only added up to 5.6% of workers.

Dr Alex Wood from the University of Birmingham said:

When we looked at readily-available data from a large cohort of people across Europe, it quickly became apparent to us that very few of the key propositions in Graeber’s theory can be sustained – and this is the case in every country we looked at, to varying degrees. But one of his most important propositions – that BS jobs are a form of ‘spiritual violence’ – does seem to be supported by the data.

Worker working on laptop (Public Domain Images)Public Domain Images
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Strong evidence was indeed discovered to suggest a connection between a worker perceiving their job as useless and their psychological wellbeing. However, this was found to be more of a correlation than necessarily a causal link.

Featured Image Credit: Warner Bros./NBC

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Julia Banim

Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.

Topics: News, employment, jobs, Now

Credits

University of Cambridge and 1 other
  1. University of Cambridge

    One in twenty workers are in ‘useless’ jobs – far fewer than previously thought

  2. Work, Employment and Society

    Alienation Is Not ‘Bullshit’: An Empirical Critique of Graeber’s Theory of BS Jobs