Work can be about more than income

by Debra Efroymson

In Hanoi, Vietnam, I pause one day to talk to an old man sitting in a low bamboo chair, selling t-shirts on the sidewalk. It is hard to judge his age, but he is surely well past retirement age, and he does not look particularly poor. Shouldn’t he be resting at home, enjoying some time off, rather than working all day? But when I talk to him, he explains that it is lonely being at home and he would much rather be outdoors where he can see and interact with many people. He says his customers often stop to chat. Wait, his job isn’t just about how much money he can earn? No, it’s more about quality of life, making a little bit while enjoying a social environment. Hmm, and how exactly does standard economics thinking account for such an individual?

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