This post is aimed at my local readers, the rest can look at it as a curiosity from an awesome small country that is fumbling all over itself trying to be even awesomer.

Slave labor

We don’t have Mexicans, but we do have students. A whole social caste of people ripe for abuse because they don’t realize their worth and hey, what better way to keep operating costs low than to employ a bunch of these guys, pay them below-minimum wage and tell them it’s even worse elsewhere?

Students in the incubation room at the Woodbin...

Students in the incubation room at the Woodbine Agricultural School, New Jersey (Photo credit: Center for Jewish History, NYC)

Not cool!

Originally student work was invented to give students some degree of autonomy, to make getting through college cheaper and easier. It’s since been quite corrupted … whole companies running on nothing but slave labor.

My recent survey about how much money comp sci students make shows that most make less than 10 euro an hour, glaringly obvious even on just a cursory glance.

These aren’t internships mind you. A lot of them are full blown computer engineers, often-times making companies’ core products completely on their own or with a help of a couple other students.

It’s sickening.

Even worse is that when I published the survey, a lot of students pinged me and said “Hey, don’t you think you set the bar somewhat high? Most of us don’t even make the 7 euro lower bound you set up …”

No, for fuck’s sake no! This is money we’re talking about! You shouldn’t be paid how much everyone else is being paid, this isn’t some competition in fairness, this is cold hard cash! Demand to be fucking paid how much you are worth to the company.

I can (sort of) understand a waiter working for 4 or 5 euro an hour. But anyone paying less than 10 for any nongeneric type of service should be laughed out of business.

And business people … shame on you!

If you get a student who is any good and they timidly ask for 7 euro an hour because they consider that quite a bit of money. Tell them they’re being stupid and demand to give them 15 euro. Congratulations, you just earned an extremely happy and loyal worker. And it’s still cheaper than giving them full employment.

When paying students, always keep in mind they rarely work more than half-time. They need to make a living off this!

Speed of business

Another thing that really gets on my nerves in Slovenia is that everything is so slow. Sending an invoice to a client in Slovenia feels like sending it down a black hole.

Invoice, Chas M Stieff Manufacturer of Grand &...

Invoice, Chas M Stieff Manufacturer of Grand & Upright Pianos (Photo credit: Lynchburg College Archives)

The average response time I’ve experienced is … a long time. Hell, I am legally mandated to give you two weeks of time to pay up and most businesses are very very careful not to pay anything sooner than that. The problem is so big the only thing student unions do is make sure people get paid quickly by just fronting the cash.

I checked. There are invoices from a year ago that are still marked as “fronted by student union”.

Sickening!

You know what happens when you send an invoice to a proper country? You get paid the next day. Last night someone wired me the money literally 20 minutes after I clicked send on the invoice email.

Of course then I had to wait roughly 15 hours for my bank to actually process the transfer of a few electrons …

Conclusion

Slovenia is awesome and I love it to bits, but I sure as hell get the feeling it doesn’t want me here. And hey, the top of the crop of our entrepreneurs, businesses and pretty much anyone worth their salt … is leaving.

I wonder why.

PS: if looking at the data from that survey makes me any angrier I will hurt people.

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  • http://twitter.com/zidarsk8 Miha Zidar

    I totally agree, But just for the survay sake, you should have added 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 euros, the reall horrors would be seen. Not to mention this is a lovely series :)

  • http://twitter.com/ZeljkoSi zeljko s

    Well said.The sad truth is that it happens even if you’re not a student, mostly in smaller companies.I’m employed for half time, work full time and at the end of the month I get around 5€/h. And if you consider I do front-end develpoment, back-end php development, server administration (LAMP stack, mail…), a bit of help desk and I have to reinstall a windows system here and there, that’s imo hella cheap labour.
    I can’t do much about it, since the job market is, well as you described it. So it either small pay or no pay.

  • http://swizec.com Swizec

    Well if you’re employed employed you shouldn’t forget that they’re also paying all of your benefits and stuff. Students get none of that.

    And I don’t think the job market is actually _that_ bad for tech people, it’s just something employers keep propagating to get away with paying people less.

  • Borut

    The whole school system (student work including) is flawed and rotten. I mean if a student completes his study in the aloted (3, 4 or 5 years) he loses all the benefits immediately but if someone is a loser and does not finish he/she can study longer and still get all the benefits. How sick is that rewarding lazy people instead of the productive ones?  I think that in no way can a student be paid the same wage as a fully employed person, come on, students should STUDY not work, no wonder we have so many 30 year old students because they simply do not want to finish school and lose all the benefits (there are many). Student work in Slovenia is an abomination and the sooner it is gone the better.

  • http://swizec.com Swizec

    Agreed that completing studies doesn’t really make sense, I have friends who have graduated and they have pretty much gone from “Awesome student, the future peak of scientific achievement” to “Unemployed dirty slob”

    However, why shouldn’t a student be compensated based on how much value they bring rather than what social caste they are in? Sure students should study, but studying alone doesn’t get you anywhere. If our colleges were any better I would be all for studying 100%, as it is now, I feel like I learn most of the good stuff in spite of going to college rather than because of it.
    With the caveat that college has laid a lot of the groundwork and opened my eyes to certain possibilities. But while it does that it also weighs you down with things that are pure crap so you can’t even devote yourself fully to the subjects that do interest you.

  • Borut

    Yeah, I agree that hands on experience in a company is important. The problem with student work is that employers do not wan’t to hire people full/half time but opt for students because they are cheaper. Maybe I did not express myself in the right way; I’m not totally against students working but the way this is currently implemented/handled is just not good. I think a revised “small work” law (malo delo) is necessary in the future plus a myriad of other reforms (work, education …). Lets see what the “new” government will bring us …

  • lio

    The sad reality is that most of the students in IT are payed below 8€/h. 

    Maybe it would be good to include lower amounts into the survery so you could really see the true image of student payments in IT. Usually (judging by what you can see in job ads) only per-project work is payed better 10-20€/h, but they also require 5+ years of experience and familiarty with entire alphabet of programming languages and technologys – which a student usually doesn’t have. I work for 7.5€/h in one of the biggest companys in Slovenia and i’m payed more than any of my friends. 

    Companys just won’t spring for more since there’s always unlimited supply of students willing to work for less, even tho their knowledge is substantially lower. 

  • rocky

    This country (and especially its work market) is FUBAR. I’m not a student anymore and I find it really hard to find work as a freelancer because I refuse to work for slave wages. Moving abroad seems to really be the best option right now.

  • http://swizec.com Swizec

    Must be why I freelance for foreign companies almost exclusively :)

    Anybody valuing your work in Slovenia is … hard to come by unfortunately. People still think this is 20 years ago and nobody actually needs money.

  • rocky

    True. Maybe you could write a post about how to find decent (foreign?) companies that are worth working for ;)

  • http://swizec.com Swizec

    Good idea, I should do that :)