• Saara & Ozzy

To the Hustle!

Most of us have been to the point where we have very little options. I’m talking about financial options.

The point where you are simply broke and trying hard too hard and sometimes failing to feed yourself. Or something unfortunate and unavoidable happens like Covid did. We have to stay alive; and so we try to find all and any means to survive.

There are lots of a lot of well trained professionals in Kenya who have no formal employment. No offence, employment is a real issue everywhere in the world. A lot of these people end up doing any kind of work they can find. I am reliably informed that this is not the case in a lot of western countries. Maybe Saara can fill me in.

Let me list just a few local options here. In the comments section, please add something in your country or something you or your friends have had to do just to keep the hustle.

1. Casual Masons: These are untrained casual labourers whose work basically is to do heavy manual work at construction sites. Usually 8-12 hours long and pays approximately 3USD for entire day’s work. They can be relatively easier to find but just as hard to come by. The demand for menial labour is rising.

2. “Dishwasher”: If there are restaurant nearby you could try get a job to clean dishes and floors. Usually they don’t ask for previous experience and training, so anyone can try get one. These sort of casuals can take home about 4USD a day.

3. Hawking/Street peddling and Open Vending: With a little capital you could start of a mobile shop with your legs as the means of mobility. These guys go around selling various small items such as candy, bottled water, cheap jewellery, handkerchiefs, fake sunglasses, cosmetics… the list is endless. They put the items in small carton boxes and go around shopping for every willing customer.

Others also have the option of opening small shacks and temporary shops that sell food, spare parts, cigarettes… name it.

The returns, as I understand can be modest enough for a day’s meal.

4. Motorbike and Bicycle Taxis: These are quite popular here and come in handy when you have to make quick shorts trips and errands around town. Each trip costs at least 0.5USD depending on the distance. These guys make a decent income and is undoubtedly one of the largest informal sectors recently. Many unemployed graduates and young people have chosen this as an alternative.

5. Second hand clothes and household items: These ones arrive in big bales and stacks, readily sorted according to type, size etc. While it is a well known fact that they are donated items from western countries, they make a decent buck for many “hustlers” here.

People have had to be creative with their survival options here. Social support systems are far from good or efficient and even I have had to create my own “side hustle” now that I can’t dance or choreograph for money.

What’s yours?

--- Ozzy ---

If there was a competition on the level of social welfare a country is providing for its people, Finland would probably be getting a trophy. My country is amazing with this and I acknowledge every day what a privilege it is to be a citizen of a country where the government really has my back. Many Finns will argue with this and say we have a lot of problems with poverty, financial inequality, homeless people etc. that the government is not doing enough for. And yes, we do have our share of those problems. And yes, there is always room to improve.

BUT I still dare to argue that no one with a residency in Finland, I mean NO ONE has to be homeless and sleep hungry if they decide not to. There is always a possibility for a roof above your head, food in your stomach and supporting guidance(free of charge) to help you solve whatever problem, that has brought you to your difficulties. It all comes down to choices we make. The question here is are we willing to make the choices needed.

The phenomenon of side hustles Ozzy talks about does not really exist here, at least not among the majority of the population. A foreigner not speaking the Finnish language has a different story to tell than me. It is no wonder that most construction workers, dishwashers in restaurants, cleaners and food couriers are non Finnish speakers.

As a highly educated (finnish national) professional losing my job I don’t need to look for “anything I can find”. I can sit on my but and collect unemployment benefits until I find a new job matching my experience level. If I cannot afford to pay rent, not to worry, the Social Insurance Institution will help me with it until I no longer need the support. If I have children and need more support I can reach out for more financial assistance from different social welfare units of my municipality etc. I might have to cut from my living standards and previous “normal” expenses, but in no means do I have to fear for my life and find ways to really “survive”. At least not in the meaning Ozzy talks about it.

As I said, there is always an opportunity and a way for you to live and even feed your family here. The biggest question and “problem” is about what people think is “good enough” for them. And once again, what are people willing to do or NOT to do.

There is a huge stigma on people living with support from social welfare. Relying on social welfare is somehow putting you to a lower “cast” of the society. And stigmatisation can be seriously harmful. But an even bigger stigma is on people doing the “bad jobs”. For example working in a grocery store as a cashier as “kaupan kassa” is considered to be something people can only end up doing if they have no other choice. Or everyone working in the cleaning industry are somehow really struggling. Really??? I hate when people say this in a disgrading tone as if there are “better jobs” and “lower jobs” and how it somehow defines you as a person what type of job you do. I dare to disagree and say that a job is only as “good” or “bad” as the person doing it.

The only “hustle” we face in Finland is to hustle with the bureaucracy of filling out the forms when applying for those benefits. In this hustle it is a dreadful mistake to tick the wrong box to a question that you did not understand even after reading it a third time.

--- Saara ---

P.S. Sincere thank you for Finland and Kela (Social Insurance Institution of Finland) for helping my family survive through rough times.


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