After yet another tragic death of an Uber driver at the hands of a passenger, the question arises: why do people do dangerous jobs? The answer is a blend of causes: pride, poor risk analysis, and poverty.
Work is fundamental to self-worth and human dignity. Unemployment, for those otherwise able and willing to work, is an embarassing and often humiliating experience. Aside from their economic isolation, the unemployed feel a creeping sense of social isolation as well. Many feel they will never find work again. Despair compounds health issues and causes new ones, which in turn further limits their ability to find and keep meaningful work. The longer one is unemployed makes it even worse. Without recent job experience, new jobs are hard to land. Thus, the incentive to take work – any work, no matter how dangerous – arises.
Poor risk analysis also plays a role. Many workplace risks are not immediately apparent. Many of us are also poor at perceiving risk, or otherwise lack the necessary understanding of a job, or the technology associated with it, to do the job safely.
Finally, poverty compounds and amplifies the incentives toward dangerous work. Even a single person with no dependants must find some form of income stream to live a decent and dignified life. Debt further compounds problems by adding monthly expenses and limiting access to further credit.
For those with children, whether separated or not, the urgency of finding income is maximized because of the fundamental importance placed by society on child support. Housing, nutrition, education and cultural needs that all children have must be provided by parents at a standard acceptable to government child protective agencies. Failure to do so can result, in some cases, in the removal of children from homes. To avoid this dire outcome, parents quite understandably turn to any kind of income-generating work they can find. The result is an entire class of highly vulnerable and economically desperate people looking for any work they can find. In these circumstances, it is easy to understand how people end up taking dangerous and sometimes deadly work.
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