Doing nothing—or anything, depending how you see it—is now a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity.
In 2025, Sweden will enact a Willy Wonka-style job guarantee for a lucky winner, except no rude children will be harmed in the process and the prize is not a treacly pleasure dome but an empty train station post. Atlas Obscura reported on Monday that the employee will report to Korsvägen, a train station currently under construction as part of Gothenburg’s expanding “event district,” which also contains an enormous stadium, science museum, and amusement park.
The only requirements of the job are that the employee clock in and clock out at the station, and remain there betwixt the mandated goal posts of their days. The project, called Eternal Employment, was dreamed up by two Swedish artists, Simon Goldin and Jakob Senneby. With about $650,000 in funds from the Public Art Agency Sweden in conjunction with the Swedish Transit Administration, the two have created the Eternal Employment foundation, which will grow the money and establish a board to choose and compensate the forever employee. The artists told Atlas Obscura over email “the foundation will be an equal opportunity employer.”
According to the job description and proposal, “The position holds no duties or responsibilities, other than that it should be carried out at Korsvägen. Whatever the employee choses to do constitutes the work.” Furthermore, the full-time job can last from anywhere between the worker’s entire remaining lifespan to whenever they wish to quit. (“Should the employee resign or retire, a new employee is recruited.”) Sound sweet? The cherry on top of it all is that Sweden has really good public sector employee benefits that transfer to the Eternal Employee and include “working hours, holiday entertainment, pension provision, notice period,” and annual wage increases.
In addition to providing the worker with their salary, the Eternal Employment Foundation is also charged with “collecting and making accessible secondary mediation, such as news stories, reportages, rumors, jokes, and urban legends the the project generates over time.” This is integral to the project since “a key aspect of Eternal employment is its potential to produce secondary mediation. Stories told about the person employed forever with nothing to do.”
That’s one part of the art concept. The other is math equations based in the artists’ reading of economist Thomas Picketty:
“For Eternal Employment the continued high rate of return on capital is a premise. The fact that r [return on capital] > g [economic growth] keeps the project afloat. In this sense the artwork can function as a measure of our growing inequality.”
What would you do with this job? I’d probably read, project movies to watch while people wait for their trains, help people get where they’re going, and strike up an email correspondence with novelist Ben Lerner so he could write about how well I am doing at projecting myself into the absent future.