This is the Worst Jobs in the World Matrix, with a listing of jobs through history that range from treacherous to tedious, and difficult to disgusting.

The graphic almost becomes a game of "would you rather?"

Would you rather gather leeches by walking bare-legged through a swamp, or gather urine by holding a chamberpot as a human urinal?

Would you rather play WoW or fan royalty all day? It’s almost as if the horrible analog jobs have been replaced by horrible digital ones.

Infographic: The Worst Jobs Throughout History

How does making iPhones at Foxconn compare to tasting Hitler’s food? Now you know.

It’s all too easy to take a boring desk job for granted. I mean, fluorescent lights, no fresh air, staring at a 15-inch display all day--we weren’t meant to live like this! We were meant to, you know, hunt down mastodons, starving for weeks at a time while we tracked them down, risking our lives to get in close and spear them, then finally bathing in sweet guts, feces, and blood that meant we’d have dinner that was sure to have more than a few hairs in it.

Worst Jobs in the World Matrix, from Lapham’s Quarterly, puts this job dispersion into perspective. Its simple four-condition matrix lists some of the world’s worst jobs by difficulty, disgustingness, treacherousness, and tediousness. It points out that there are far worse things than a bad job, you know, like a bad job that really smells and might get you killed.

A Roman banquet attendant--or what I’ve dubbed “human urinal”--is definitely a sick mix of disgusting and tedious, though I’m not sure I’d prefer being a Viking egg collector, hanging off a cliff with nothing more than a hand-spun weed rope, getting pecked at by all manner of bird. Though truth be told, being a factory worker in China in the year 2010 doesn’t sound much better (though wages have been going up). Personally, I’d take food taster. I’ve simply never believed that the job is all that bad. You get three gourmet (tastes of) meals a day, and if the food isn’t up to snuff, you shout, “There’s poison in this soup!” and poof, there’s a new chef in the kitchen.

Yeah, food taster is definitely not the worst job for me. Though that’s easy for me to say when we’re all picturing some plump cartoon king. In reality, the job sounded terrifying in the home of more contemporary despot, Hitler.

See more here.

[Hat tip: I Love Charts]

[Image: China Factory Workers, Steve Jurvetson via Flickr]

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9 Comments

  • Ron White

    You've missed a few:

    * Raking through raw sewage to clean out objects such as dead fish, clothing and tampons.
    * Bomb defuser.
    * Being the guy who has to put puppies so sleep at  the pound.
    * Undercover cop.
    * Fireworks assembly line worker.
    * Changing the light bulb at the top of 1,000-foot antennas.
    * Masturbating hogs and bulls to harvest their semen.

  • stackhousellc

    Ridiculous that America factory conditions in the late 1800s aren't on this list. Here's a few: 

    needle makers: use Mercury (even after it was well known it was dangerous) with your bare hands to smooth and sharpen sewing needles.

    Seamtresses in NYC: You think Bangladeshi's had it bad the American factories used steam power and large arrays of rapidly moving belts that draped down from the ceiling. One wrong move and the belt would remove any body part that brushed it. Not to mention that you were working in a wooden building sitting on a massive furnace and there was no fire department. Oh and your boss kept the doors locked because you were just a worthless immigrant.  

    Coal Miners: Oh poor poor Foxconn employees, they have to give 30% of pay for housing. Pennsylvania coal miners worked for company credits. The companies didn't want to lose employees so they often changed the value of the credit to ensure that employees, and their families, were in debt. Constantly. So when your father died on the job (which was common) the son was often pressured to take his father's place to pay off the debt.

    We shouldn't forget, as Americans, that we basically invented horrible, industrial working conditions. When those conditions got public attention or Unions kept people from working those jobs, the "innovators" in the US simply outsourced those jobs to places willing to do them albeit with some improvements in working conditions.

  • Newtonhouse123

    Typical response from a fine arts graduate.  America the bad .... all others are infinitely virtuous and just learned from us.  Yeah right.  Cry me a river union hack.

  • reinform

    Co. Design:
    Your online experience is so frustrating with pop-up ads and having to scroll through top images - i hate it!
    I suggest you learn something about simplicity from your OWN articles!

    - Tim Nyberg / Octane Creative
    graphic design and marketing professional

  • Irene Velveteen

    Sorry J, I don't see the issue here either. Keep your cursor on the far right of the image box and click there. If you're already doing this and still find it frustrating we'd have to assume you have a short-temper and low tolerance.

  • Richard

    How frustrating can it be? Just keep scrolling past the ad. These guys gotta make money somehow. It's an eyesore to see the ad right in the middle of the images, yes, but certainly doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that you just hold your mouse off to the very far right of the slideshow and keep clicking.

    If you're aiming to hit the next arrow, you're gonna be baited into a click.

  • poijlhjkghjt

    I totally agree - the image galleries are unfriendly and frustrating to use!