Monday, 12 March 2012

Underemployment - Capabilities vs Certifications?

We've heard this word before and I've personally used this in some of my presentations, seminar papers and press interviews. I experienced something interesting today which somehow triggers me to rethink if what I've been saying all these while were accurate and comprehensive or not.

Check out the Wiki and found this  UnderEmployment by Wiki and this UnderEmployed Investopedia at Investopedia. Seems quite consistent with my previous thoughts which centres around those keywords.....overqualified, overeducate, skill underutilization, economic capacity underuse etc. Long and short, the individual is working but isn't working at their full capability.But again, the common denominator for all these is, capability is equaled to "certificate qualification". Whether one is a member of a professional body, degree holder, diploma or even college drop outs...CAPABILITIES ARE MEASURED BASED ON ONE'S EDUCATION LEVEL.

Is this how we suppose to measure capabilities hence tag one as underemployed or not?? Check this out..
Sheila the Caddy
Got this from a friend's facebook Eddie Putra - Sheila the Caddy. I find it interesting when he put the following remark - "The next time you wanna complain about your job, think about Sheila who has to lug a heavy golf bag around, get scolded, get sworn at, rake the bunker, repair divots and entertain tantrums from her boss". Now..WHAT IF Sheila went to university and had an accounting degree and later work for 2 years in an accounting firm before she found out her true talent and passion was actually in golf... and thought it would "never be too late" for her to take golf seriously instead? 

She plays golf since she was 6 years old and at 25 she carries handicap 6 in golf. Since she doesn't think she would go any further in professional golf, she decided to take up serious caddying and make a profession out of it. She joins the Professional Caddies Association and became a professional caddy. Caddying actually goes beyond carrying bags and bunker raking. A professional caddy is just like an advisor and consultant to the golfer..course management, club management, reading the lines, providing second opinions to the golfer etc..

Today, she earns perhaps US$150,000, partly tax free with almost fully sponsored daily expenses, as she'll be on tour following her boss most of the time...with lots of time playing golf in between tour. That's more than what a typical accountant at her age would make and time of her own could spend. In the United States a non tour caddies working at top clubs earning around US$1000 a week or US$4000 a month...check this out Top Earning Caddies

Shilla the Tol Attendant
Now, what about this Tol attendant. I saw her name tag. Her name is Shilla (same pronunciation but different spelling)...Interesting...many Sheela's in a day...and I arrived late evening in the office and my Personal Assistant, Sheila too, forgot to bring me my coffee...ouch!!! But she's not our subject of discussion here..:-)

Going back to Shilla the tol attendant...I don't know her but in that 8 1/2 seconds giving tickets and paying my tol, I manage to get the following info from her - she's 19 years old, from Sentul and finishes her SPM and worked for slightly more than a year at the tol...Amazing and don't ask me how I did it...:-)

And my last "bonus" question or "soalan cepumas" to her.."Kenape kerja kat tol aje? ( Why do you work at the tol?) ". She smiled and answered, "Kerja ni senang aje Pakcik. Duduk pakai tangan aje. ( It is an easy job Uncle. I just need to seat and only use my hand)".

Two parts of her answer I didn't expect. First she called me Pakcik or Uncle, then the using her hand thingy. I got at least another 3 seconds to ask her another question while she's getting my change but I was just too shock to do so..

I kept on thinking after that....8 hours seating, WHOLE right hand in, HALF right hand out, some twiggling here and there, perhaps some simple maths at the end of the day to count the money and that's it!!! For someone who is young, healthy, strong, all limbs working I presume and smart though she's study until SPM, merely doing what she's doing seems "UNDEREMPLOYED" to me. What's she doing could be done by a midget except a midget need to get his/her WHOLE hand out instead. Or someone on wheel chairs or deaf perhaps. These group of people are classified as "In Need of Special Assistance" group and in most occasions they won't be able to get a job even as tol attendance.

I believe if the entire system recognized capabilities as what a person REALLY capable of doing as a person in his/her entirety, we probably be able to maximize human capital in what I call "true sense" in building up our nation.

Based on Wiki and some other definitions, Sheila would be Underemployed and Shilla is Employed. My take is otherwise. Sheila is Employed and Shilla is Underemployed....Sorait.


  1. nice observation. Using educational level as the only measure never worked for me before, so I can relate ...

  2. i am under employed but no one seems to employ me.. what do i do?

    1. Dear Rizman, try to do what Sheila did. You're a good golfer...why not caddying. You can start practicing to be my caddy in next alumni golf :-)

  3. Publishable material. Just enough length to get the reader to read until the end. You should have a column in one of the major newspapers.

  4. Thanks Elzara. Having a column in the newspaper would put pressure on me to come up with publishable materials and will be pressured by time too :-). On the blog, i merely write during my free time and whatever that came along the way.

    Thanks again. Do subscribe to my blog and keep posted.

  5. Not talking about me that has been on all sides of the fence, but about others that i try to employ and then figure out how to fire, most of them are actually not employable.
    Many just want the money and do not work for themselves. I.e. they do not do what Dale Carnegie advised long ago: Work for your next promotion.

    They hardly read when it is the knowledge economy and i need them to be smarter than me. Particularly when i cannot figure out how to get my next big deal in a crony-infested market. And these freshies have no cronies. Yet.

    I end up been their best crony and usually after leaving me for my friends' companies, they got their real big break, thanks to my bragging about them to those friends.

    I now have one rule when looking at someone to employ. Don't.

    1. Tell me about it bro...I'm going thru some of these challenges again