Sunday, May 29, 2011

7 minutes

Today I learned that a study was recently done regarding the work burden of civil servants in Egypt. The study concluded that the average government employee in Egypt works... wait for it... wanna guess?... have a think...

7 minutes a day

So after I heard that statistic, I was summoned into the enormous building in downtown Cairo where all - yes, ALL - the country's bureaucratic paperwork is done.

A colleague and I followed our bureaucracy expert guy into the sprawling boundless complex. A girl checked our bags then we headed up the stairs with about one hundred other people. We lost our fixer and almost went to the wrong office, but thankfully I caught a glimpse of his white head about two dozen people (and two metres) away from us. We followed him through a labyrinth of hallways to get to the visa desk, where we were required to report.

Now, here's the thing. As we walked past throngs and throngs of people, certainly more than a thousand on just one one floor of the giant edifice, I realised they were all crowding up at service counters. And behind those counters were busy clerks. There were many, many busy clerks, but there were more people vying for their attention.

Those clerks were certainly working more than 7 minutes today.

They were also mainly women.

So now I have an image of, for every busy woman handling the crowds, a dozen men sitting in a back room somewhere drinking tea all day long. Just to average out the 7 minutes.

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