Could you imagine a job where you would never ever have to do any work at all? You could read books, watch movies, sleep or do anything else you liked! Unbelievable! Well, you’d better believe it. This is soon going to be the job specification of one very lucky employee at the under-construction Korsvägen train station in Gothenburg, Sweden.
So, now let’s answer the how’s, why’s, and what’s of the story. This vacancy has been created or rather will be created, as part of a conceptual art project title ‘Eternal Employment’ in Sweden that will begin in 2026. Yes, that’s still quite a few years away, but preliminary work on the project has already begun with a draft of the proposed recruitment ad already published online as per a report in the Atlas Obscura. The job specifications are very simple; the employee would have to report to work at the train station every morning and punch in the time. This would cause a row of fluorescent lights over the platform to light up, letting everyone on the platform know that the otherwise purpose-less employee was at ‘work’. The employee would punch out at the end of the day turning off the fluorescent lights. The time in between punching in and punching out could be spent in whatever manner the employee desired, except working at another paid job. The employee would not be required to remain at the station in the duration but could leave it and return in time to punch out. In fact, the job description states that ‘Whatever the employee chooses to do constitutes the work.’ The employee also has the option to quit (if the task of doing nothing all day got too stressful!) and retire at any time. In such a case he/she would be replaced by another employee. Otherwise, the employee could hold the post for life if he/she so wished. Besides, no particular qualifications have been required by the organizing artists for appointment to the post and anyone in the world would be allowed to apply. The employee would be paid a monthly salary of $2,320 with an annual raise, vacation time, a pension, and other benefits.
The project is meant to be a social experiment as well as a serious political statement. It was conceived in 2017 when the Swedish Transport Administration and Public Art Agency, Sweden decided to conduct an international contest for artists to contribute to the design of the new station. The prize money was to be 7 million in Swedish Krona which would be equivalent to approximately $750,000. Swedish artists Jakob Senneby and Simon Goldin then came up with their proposal of avoiding any forms of sculpture or murals and instead utilizing their prize money to pay a salary to one employee who would do absolutely nothing all day. The statement that they were trying to make in their proposal was that ‘In the face of mass automation and artificial intelligence, the impending threat/promise is that we will all become productively superfluous’ and ‘We will all be “employed at Korsvägen,” as it were.’ They also came up with a calculation on how they would keep paying the employee’s salary for ‘eternity’, which according to them was 120 years.
The jury for the contest decided that Senneby and Goldin’s idea was “an artistic expression of great quality,” humorous and innovative, and so awarded them the prize amidst a huge uproar and hue and cry against the same. However, it must be said that the artists themselves have admitted that the concept is unproductive and absolutely worthless, but that was precisely the idea that they wished to convey. They pointed out that many people believed all art to be worthless, so was theirs. They also proposed that this futile job could lead to the creation of a new expression ‘as though you were at Korsvägen’ to express indolence, boredom, or apathy.