The cranes were remote controlled, after all. Satellite-based internet reached such low latencies – you could perform remote surgery this way. So, why would you need the crane operators “on site”?
In the first pandemic of the 21st century nearly all office jobs went remote. In developed countries like Germany, more than half of the total workforce started to work from home. (A study by the once mighty German car driver’s association proved that there were staggering 50% less traffic jams in 2021.)
Now even jobs that involved operating machinery became remote. And “remote” meant: Anywhere in the world. Midnight in Rotterdam was 6am in a village in Malaysia. You could hire a qualified remote crane operator there and have her working the night shift in Rotterdam – without having to pay extra.
Arvo didn’t mind. Cooperation and sharing came naturally to him. Yes, his student job was gone, but a mother or father in a developing country got to earn a decent living, raising their own life standard and that of their whole society.
Unions quickly learned that it was in their own interest to take the side of workers in the (not much longer) poorer regions of the world. They put pressure on politicians. Laws were passed that enforced EU-standard healthcare and minimum salary for every employee of a European company, regardless of where they were located. Also, goods and services could only be exported to the EU, if the workers were compensated fairly. This in turn forced employers in developing countries to step up their game.
Life became better on planet Earth and all that it took from wealthy nations was a bit of inevitable change.
Arvo’s hands lay still. His mind returned. “40 years. Where did the time go?” He threw another log into the stove. The wedding ring gleamed in the light of the flames. He went back to his little project and nearly smiled as the memory came back to him.