Let me make three things perfectly clear: First, in a serious depression, a là the Great Depression, very little is safe and in a collapse there are no secure jobs. Second, the whole idea of a ‘job’ is likely to become a quaint notion the worse the depression or collapse gets. And third, this article is somewhat tongue-in-cheek; its main purpose is to get you to think about your future on our current unsustainable path.
During the Great Depression the unemployment rate in the United States rose to about 25% – meaning there were still many people employed. Some of them hired the unemployed and desperate as servants. During a collapse, however, the entire economic system is thrown into turmoil, discredited, and, well, collapses. (Here is a brief and entirely non-technical explanation of the difference between recession, depression, and collapse.)
Far more secure is some form of self-employment. The worse the depression/collapse, the closer to being a provider of necessities you want to be. People will still need to eat, but travel to exotic locations will be cut. So, without further ado, here are my lists of ‘jobs’ that are most and least likely to be immune to a severe depression or collapse.
Tanning salons: At one time, pasty white skin was the ‘in’ look among the rich, who even went so far as to powder themselves to look whiter. The reason the rich wanted to look so white was because the peasants had lovely tans from working outdoors all day, and what rich person wants to look like a commoner? Fast-forward a hundred years and the reverse is true; the idle rich need tans to distinguish themselves from the pasty-white proles who spend all day labouring in cubicles. In a collapse, many more people will be spending much more time out-of-doors, and so I predict pasty-whiteness will again become popular among the well-to-do.
Cop: You might think security would be a concern during a depression/collapse, and therefore the position of police officer more secure. You would be right and wrong. See the next entry…
Any taxpayer-funded position: Firefighter, records clerk, the previously mentioned cops…if the government has drastically reduced tax revenue, there won’t be money to pay you.
Maytag repairman: During tough economic times, people will repair rather than replace…and they are more likely to get their handy brother-in-law to do it. Worse still, they may opt for scavenged parts. And, in many cases, they will simply do without the dishwasher, trash compactor, garburator, clothes dryer, and so on.
Car-related anything: Car dealers, mechanics, brake and muffler shops, etc. Demand for new cars will plummet (you may have noticed that it already has), and those with the money to drive will repair their own, or trade something to someone with mechanical skills. However, there are limits. You think a car is a necessity? What if you have no money for gas? Or if the car won’t go and you can’t afford to repair it? Now what? A great deal of money has been devoted by advertisers to make what were once wants into necessities, but the reality is most people can live without their car. Given our suburban set-up, this may be massively inconvenient, but…
Travel agents: As the price of oil goes up, so does the cost of flying, and thus the number of people who can afford to fly goes down. At some point we’re back to only the rich being able to travel, and in the event of collapse, virtually nobody will be travelling for pleasure. Expand this to all service industries that provide a luxury service: wedding planners, sommeliers, dry cleaners, even waiters – times get tougher in the service industry when times get tough generally.
Asshole: Untrustworthy, obnoxious, arrogant, social and corporate-climbing, worthless idiots you just don’t want to be around. In Canada, we call such people “goofs,” but we always were more polite than the Americans. I don’t know what term the Brits and other nations use, but I suspect every culture has a word for these people. Clue: If nobody wants you now because you’re such a pain-in-the-ass to be around, because you can’t be trusted, or because you’re an idiot, they’re going to want to be around you a lot less when times get tough. If you really want to be one of those people, you better plan on being the only guy in town with something that many people need – and even then, don’t count on keeping it if you’re not straight with people. Politicians are going to have a rough ride.
CEO of a major company: Here is where depressions and collapses differ. In a depression, unless the company goes bust the CEO is safe. He may have to cut his salary in half – from, say $10 million to $5 million – or sell one of the executive jets, but otherwise he’ll hang in until the end. This is especially true as taxpayers bail out “too big to fail” companies. However, in the event of collapse, the CEO would be wise to hightail it to whatever island he has purchased before we peasants come after him with pitchforks.
Local energy suppliers: If you can build a solar greenhouse that provides a lot of heat to a house, you’ll be in demand. Ditto if you manufacture wood-burning stoves and masonry ovens. People will need heat, and the freer the better; anything they can save on oil, natural gas, or electricity will be a huge bonus. An airtight wood stove can burn wood, trash, excess children, you name it, while masonry ovens can take a short, hot fire and then radiate heat for many hours.
Soap makers: I live in Victoria, Canada, and there are numerous shops selling locally-made soaps, lotions, and similar stuff. While there seem to be lots of them, 99% or more of the population is still buying commercial brands made far away in a giant factory. During a depression/collapse, local is strongly favoured, so soap makers will have a valuable product.
Farmers: Duh. Barring an oversupply, farmers will always have something that everyone else wants.
Horse breeders: Obviously it depends how bad things get, but given that we are facing a collapse due to peak oil (meaning the end of cheap oil and the beginning of oil price spikes and shortages), horses may well come back into fashion. Not the fancy-schmancy English-saddle type, but useful and especially draught horses.
Natural healer: When doctors can no longer make $500,000 per year churning patients through in 5 minute visits to dispense $10 pills or $15,000 surgeries, people will return to less costly and less risky ways of healing. Naturopaths should do well, as will those quaint little stores that sell all manner of herbs and potions.
Manufacturer of inebriating substances: Brewers, wine makers, and distillers will all do well as people seek to escape their troubles or simply have a little fun. If you can’t afford to go to the movies, or if the theatres have gone out of business, if restaurants are too pricey, if there are no cars to get to clubs, if there’s no electricity for the TV or Internet, etc, then you can still sit around with a few friends and have a drink. I originally included marijuana grower in this group, but in reality pot is so easy to grow that anyone can do it. (It’s nicknamed ‘weed’ for a reason.)
There you have it; the official list of up-and-coming post-collapse ‘careers.’ I’m sure those with some imagination can think of many more.