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The individual and social values of jobs can differ

Because a job can affect the well-being of others as well as that of the jobholder, two jobs that may appear identical from an individual perspective could be different from a social perspective. The individual perspective provides a useful starting point, because it often coincides with the social perspective. A highpaying job in Bangalore’s information technology sector is probably good for the worker; it is also good for India because it contributes to thecountry’s long-term growth.

In other cases, the two perspectives may conflict. For instance, Vietnam’s poverty rate declined with unprecedented speed in the 1990s when land was redistributed to farmers and agricultural commercialization was liberalized. From the individual perspective, farming jobs involve difficult working conditions, substantial variability in earnings, and no formal social protection. But they can make a major contribution to development, as a ticket out of poverty for many. Conversely, bloated public utilities often offer a range of privileges to their employees even if the utilities themselves provide only limited coverage and unreliable services and are obstacles to economic growth and poverty reduction.

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