Thursday, April 24, 2014

Comparative advantage in housekeeping

The other day, I saw a discussion on a BBS. A woman asked for help about her personal life. Several persons made an answer for her.

The question was related to housekeeping job. She was married and a housewife. Her husband always complained about her performance of housekeeping, such as cooking, cleaning, and washing. "You are so dull and lazy. I can be hardly patient."

Actually, she was not good at this kind of task. She was not dexterous, but made strenuous efforts every day. So, after being blamed by the husband, she could not avoid from saying, "So, you should do instead of me! Try it!"

It was surprising for her to watch that her husband was carrying out the tasks without any troubling. His works were efficacious. He cleaned up the rooms with minimized waste of time. She was forced to recognize the fact that she was less effective than her husband at housekeeping, even still she was engaged in such tasks for a long time.

She felt desperate. Then, she made a question for some advices on the internet.

How do you reply to her?

To be honest, this BBS is infamous as many users are very provocative. Actually, there were several comments speaking ill of her. As far as I checked, few responses were truly useful.

My answer is typically based on economics. It is a good sample to explain the concept of "comparative advantage."

Comparative advantage means that a thing can take advantage, or contribute to the total achievement, even if it is absolutely inferior to others.

For example, imagine an excellent business person (e.g. CEO) and a rookie. The CEO can perform everything much faster than the rookie.

Here is two tasks. One is planning a business. The other is typing a dialog. The CEO can make planning ten times faster than the rookie. For typing, the CEO is faster than the rookie by twice. So what? If the CEO is involved in the both tasks, they will be done quickly. However, the rookie has no tasks to do. It is waste of payment for him. In contrast, if the rookie is engaged in typing exclusively, the CEO can make use of his time of typing into planning much more. It will be beneficial for the whole company. This situation can be described as the rookie contributes to the company with sparing the time of the CEO.

This is comparative advantage. You can notice that there is no advantage in the rookie. Even an absolutely inferior person can help more skillful persons with his usual power. This kind of thought seems hopeful for most ordinary people.

Therefore, I would like to say to the woman. "You should continue housework. Your minimal contribution can aid your husband, letting him concentrate on his own job. You can be proud of you."

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