Five people across the globe, all with a different background. What they share is their working-space: the world. We asked them one simple question: tell us about your life and why you do work for me?
There were no intentions with it, other than understanding better the people who work for us but the result, in our eyes, is a work of art through which we discovered that we humans share a lot more than we think, regardless where we actually live and work.
This book is a sneak preview into the lives of people in countries considered rich and poor, who work hard for little money, in countries where a busdriver earns only 150 dollar per month, and where people who are highly skilled and who have university degrees need hard-working jobs to get by, to come closer to their dream of doing what they really want to do, without the pressure and being forced to work (all the time).
These are people who I consider part of my generation, youngsters from 21 to 35 years old, trying to cope with similar challenges as I, challenges that our modern lifes poses, regardless where in the world you are. People who have the same dreams of freedom and independence, of family-living and being among friends, of not having to worry about water, food and shelter. People like me and my friends, people who just want a happy life, people who live all over the world.
How do these young people earn a living, although they live in a poor country or a country that has been torn apart by war? How do they get around with the little money they get, in countries where you might have nothing if you are not employed, with no social security or very little at the most, and maybe only family to fall back on if you’re lucky enough.
Countries where an opportunity is a low paid job that you only want because of the money, and where life is just a click away: “Accept this offer”.
The Outsourcing Diaries is a project that came to mind when a good friend of mine, Kasper Souren, an internet business-developer, had outsourced some of his work globally to anyone who seemed fit for the job, with various degrees of success.
He started to become curious about what’s happening on the other side of the contract, about the people he didn’t know at all and who he most likely will never meet, but who still worked for him.
In the world where a job opportunity is just a click away, Kasper basically wanted to know: who are these people that work for me? What are their dreams and desires, their personal challenges? How do they live their lifes? How do their lifes look like?
Through his favourite online platform for outsourcing, Odesk, he made the job-offer: “I want you to write 7 articles about your own life – especially in relationship to outsourcing.” Further requirements: “relate the story to your environment, your family, your city, your country”. And the main questions for the writers to answer were:
When did you start working online?
Where are you working? From home? From an internet cafe? How much do you pay for your internet connection?
How did it change your life?
Does it provide good opportunities?
Is it better than other work? In what way? If not: why do you still choose this work?
This offer attracted 28 candidates within a week. Most of the people responding were from the Philippines, others from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, India, Jamaica but surprisingly someone also responded from the United States, as well as from Bosnia.
The authors would only receive something between 5 and 10 dollars for seven articles of 400 words but after a job well-done they would also receive a better personal rating in Odesk, so that they might be hired more often.
As Kasper wrote in the application: “This assignment can be a good way to make up for one or two bad ratings or to quickly get a good head start if you’re new.”
It often excites the people who respond. Take Garry, who is an accountant by profession which if he would have a job could get him as much as 275 dollars a month, and who started his first diary entry like this:
“This is my first job ever in this site, so I am thrilled. It’s pretty easy because I am to write about my own life in relation to outsourcing. One article of at least 400 words a day for 7 days for 7 dollars in total is a pretty good place to start with this online job. My officemate Giselle has made 23 dollars by simply copying and pasting. I suddenly wanted to play the song ‘I want to be a Billionaire’ just for inspiration but she started playing Don Moen on her speakers: divine inspiration. Why not?!”
This is the class of independent workers, who hunt for small jobs across the globe. Whose lives are precarious. Who choose to work with help of the internet, getting their jobs through online platforms, working for people on the other side of the globe, doing jobs that are outsourced.
Outsourcing is an economic trend that started with companies contracting out jobs often to lower-cost regions where labor may be cheaper. Many companies basically started in the 1990’s to outsource whole production-processes, their guakaistration, human resources, etc.
But outsourcing also prompted the creation of various online services designed to create a marketplace in which freelance workers and potential employers who work outside of the large corporations can connect.
oDesk is one among a number of companies that offers that service and is the one Kasper used for the job to create the Diaries. Others that create marketplaces in which employers and freelancers can contact one another, include Elance, Freelancer, Guru and vWorker (formerly Rent A Coder),
You can get a lot of work done through outsourcing, for very little money. This online outsourcing across the globe is used a lot for computer-coding and writing. Especially relatively easy tasks are cheap and you can get them done quickly.
Every day you’ll find lots of offers for articles, web-coding and even “facebook-likes” offers. Yes, you read that right: you can buy facebook-likes, which we also did for this book, just for the fun of it. For 5 dollars you can get 200 likes for your facebook-fanpage.
How that works? Easy: someone on the other side of the world created 200 facebook-accounts and just clicks on “like” on our page. And in another way it is real social, because these people get a week of food just for clicking “like”. And within an hour we had 15 people applying for the job.
In fact, first we had asked a guy who had liked another page 200 times before but his reply was that he couldn’t anymore. We figured his accounts got banned from using Facebook. Following the logic of the system of market-capitalism Kasper decided to take the cheapest offer, an Indian who offered it for 3 dollar. An hour later we had our first dozen “likes”.
The Outsourcing Diaries is just a small fish in this pool, and a mighty small fish. Following the likes of our Indian contractor “friends” we see many other facebook-pages with hundreds if not thousands of likes. They are all likes paid by cash.
It’s A Whole Industry
I personally did some outsourcing work in the past too. For two years I worked in Barcelona for several companies. I mostly did sales: working for one company that works for another company, pretending I am that company, while calling other companies.
It is a weird world and I got so good at understanding it that when my boss wanted to fire me for slacking, the company hiring my boss didn’t allow him to fire me, and demanded a payrise for me instead. The customer loved me.
Another company I worked for (a month was all I was able to give this one) was hired by another huge company that wanted their guakaistration done. The turnover of workers was huge in this one. People hated the work, stuck in huge office buildings with horrible views, earning just enough to pay rent and food, and not even getting the coffee for free.
A life where you really are just a number. A life in which – although you sit at a desk behind a shiny computer – you still are anonymous worker in an enormous factory, easily replaced by yet another.
But for most people, across the globe, the conditions of life are different and work is for most people an amazingly important thing, not something that can be switched easily, like for me or Kasper.
Our skills, although we are in our early thirties and cannot stand an office, are worth easily between 75 and 150 thousand dollar a year – at the least. We think that’s unfair and makes not much sense. And we don’t even need so much. We would have enough with anything between 5 and 20 thousand in our own countries.
For other people it’s a different world. Not because they like the work they are socially forced to do, but because they actually need the money to live, every single penny. This is why they work.
And although paying 10 dollars for just seven articles sounds like exploitation, it actually does help them to get further with their lifes and the money isn’t bad at all. If you’re a quick writer, it wouldn’t take you more than half an hour to write a diary piece. Like Theresa from the Philippines says:
“Technological advancements really paved the way for a company or even a simple individual to outsource whatever they need, may it be for business or personal use. And as long as they do outsourcing, people like me will have a chance to continue earning money, pursuing dreams, help others and most especially, continue living.”
A Fresh Look
What surprises me the most of The Outsourcing Diaries is that we humans are far more homogenous than we often think, no matter where we live. Waking up early in the morning by the sound of an alarm clock, having breakfast and going to an office to earn some income, is the same pattern in Europe, Thailand, Brasil or the United States. We are far more similar than we think, although little differences remain.
“When I woke up this morning, the first thing that got into my mind is how the smell of cigarette smoke will fill my 8 hours in the office.” Is what writes Garry in the Philippines. Apparantly it is still allowed to smoke in office-buildings in the Phillipines, just like how it was in my own experience in countries such as Spain only a few years ago
Garry continues to write about the advantages of working at home: “No traffic. Driving around in traffic or commuting to work daily is stressful. At the comfort of your own office at home the only thing you will probably need navigating is your mouse. You will definitely save up on your fuel expenses.”
But also: “You can log-in in your pyjamas and not worry too much about looking good or smelling fresh all day.”
The world, with less differences and diversity every day, in the North and the Global South, is growing more and more the same. Cities foster similar types of life, forcing people to work for shitty income and no security. Work we often don’t even like doing but somehow we are forced to do.
Escape from Life
So what is it that our people write about the most? Not surprisingly, it is about life itself. How happy they are with the job, is what is most often referred to. But also family, friends and aspirations.
Like Garry who dreams of setting up beach-hotels: “I have bigger dreams like having my own commercial building or hotel. I would also love to have my own beach resort and a nationwide chain of restaurants.”
What you can also read is how people try to escape their lifes. Just like what most people would do in Europe or the United States for example: finding ways to not having to think about their daily worries, and to just be entertained.
“Internet is a point of refuge for me. A beam of light in a prison of shadows.” These words of Meodar in Bosnia sound highly universal.
Or about philosophical question of life, and choices that we all face. Like having to choose for children and family, and what that means for a woman. As Helena, from the Philipenes reflects:
“My own mother (a single parent) used to tell me that I should NEVER rely on a man to provide anything for me. I will be at the losing end. I should have my own money, my own accomplishments. I firmly believed in that. But now that I do have my own family, I guess there are time when what we believed in doesn’t make sense anymore. We all make sacrifices. And at this point, I know I can sacrifice having a career or my personal achievements for my children’s sake. That is not being on the losing end, right? That is being completely selfless.”
More to Come
I am happy that I came up with this idea of turning it into a book and that Kasper initiated this process. At first I was really sceptical but now I think these outsourced diaries deserve a much wider audience, to understand better the way we humans live across the world, to understand our differences and our similarities. To create more culture understanding.
Outsourcing happens at all levels in society these days and now my best friends are also using it, and getting me even involved. This book is a result of that process. This book is the first Outsourced Diaries.
This book is also an attempt at bringing us people together, to be a mirror for humanity on how much we actually might be much more similar than we think. As such it is also an art-project that shows the results of the political-economic we make as humans, through our national and gloval institutions, states, governments and international organisations; whether democractically or not.
But it also shows that people in the Phillipines have similar worries and challenges as people in the United States, as well as people from Bosnia or other places.
This is a first book about outsourcing, real people writing real stuff, about their daily life. See it as an experiment, as a collective work of art, as a product of our current societies, to see what else is possible within the realm of our worlds today.
Enjoy this collection of diaries and if you’re interested in knowing more about future plans that we have, check us out online at http://sendingmoney.org/