Leeches, anyone? The worst jobs in history

Your daily grind may be horrible, but at least you aren't a Viking egg collector or a 'World of Warcraft' gold farmer.

By Kim Peterson May 7, 2013 2:18PM
Factory worker at a heater element manufacturing plant in Guangdong, China (© Huw Jones/Alamy)Modern-day jobs have their share of drawbacks, but we can thank our lucky stars that we're no longer tasting food for poison.

That's one of the duties that Lapham's Quarterly has listed on a fascinating chart of the worst jobs in the world. The magazine tracks down some of the most unrewarding ways to make a living over the centuries, and looking at the list should make anyone feel better about that vindictive boss or extra-long shift.

The magazine classifies jobs as treacherous, tedious, difficult, disgusting or some combination of the categories. Over in treacherous and difficult is the Viking egg collector, that poor soul in 10th-century Scotland who had to climb down steep cliffs of rock to steal eggs from birds for food.

In the treacherous and disgusting category is the Hindustan food taster, who in the 16th century had to eat samples of the emperor's meals to test for poison. Also in the disgusting corner is the 19th-century French leech gatherer, who would walk through ponds to allow leeches to attach to his or her body. The leeches were removed and placed in a basket for medical purposes.

Then there are the tedious jobs, such as the Indian punkah wallah who spent all day in the 1880s pulling a rope to manually operate the fans for members of the British Raj.

Only three modern professions made it to the worst jobs list, and they're all in Asia. A Chinese factory worker averaged 300 hours a month on the job in 2010 for about 76 cents an hour only to see 30% of the pay return to the factory for room and board. Then there's the Tokyo subway "oshiya," or pusher, who crams people into packed trains to ensure the doors close properly.

And the most tedious job of all? The person, often located in China, who spends all day at the computer mining virtual gold in Activision Blizzard's (ATVI) hit game "World of Warcraft." Gamers will pay real money for enough virtual gold to buy that Vial of the Sands flying mount potion. It's epic, people! Those gold farmers, by the way, slave away for about 30 cents an hour.

You can see the rest of the Lapham's Quarterly list here. It's a fun read.

More on moneyNOW


Tags: ATVI
10Comments
May 7, 2013 5:28PM
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Debt Collectors...the scum of the earth
May 7, 2013 9:44PM
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jetgeorge... another liberal in denial. the jews were enslaved thousands of years before the blacks here in the usa and look how they turned out? they own everything! african blacks sold their own people! 7 "native american" tribes owned black slaves. have you protested in front of any casinos? blacks have been OVERCOMPENSATED for the suffering of their ancestors centuries before. if you dont like the history of america LEAVE! no one will care....
May 7, 2013 3:53PM
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What, being the President of the United States didn't make the list?

May 7, 2013 6:30PM
May 7, 2013 9:43PM
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How about cleaning toilets, etc.  A college friend's father owned a large house in West Ocean City, Maryland and she and her brother got it for two weeks each summer.  Being in the same clique of friends with her on campus, I got a free ocean vacation each summer during college.  One day, two guys and a tanker truck came to pump out the septic tank.  Being on city water and sewer back home, we'd never seen this done and carefully studied the operation.  After it was over, someone asked one of the workers, "Doesn't the smell bother you after a while?"  He answered, "You get used to it," as he wiped a sewage-dirty forearm across his forehead to remove sweat.
May 7, 2013 6:47PM
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people working for 30, 40, 50 cents an hour. disgraceful.
May 7, 2013 8:25PM
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Do people really know what the phrase "worst in History" really mean?

If that is what we are REALLY talking about then, I say the WORST job in History

was the job of SLAVERY! Would any one really want to work hard labor 24 hourrs, 365 days

a year and not get paid whlie, all the time being whipped, raped, starved, sold, and lynched?

That's the worst job in American History.  Let's stop trying to water down this nation's horrible history, while demeaning every other nation and religious factions on the planet.

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