If you haven’t yet checked out the Financial Times much-discussed breakdown on the economics of Somali piracy, do yourself a favor and allocate a few minutes’ worth of reading time. The piece won my heart by using buccaneer salary estimates to convey some perspective on how the notion of “dangerous work” differs so sharply between nations:
The figures debunk the myth that piracy turns the average Somali teenager into a millionaire overnight. Those at the bottom of the pyramid barely made what is considered a living wage in the western world. Each holder would have spent roughly two-thirds of his time, or 1,150 hours, on board the Victoria during its 72 days at Eyl, earning an hourly wage of $10.43. The head chef and sous-chef would have earned $11.57 and $5.21 an hour, respectively.
Even the higher payout earned by the attackers seems much less appealing when one considers the risks involved: the moment he stepped into a pirate skiff, an attacker accepted a 1-2 per cent chance of being killed, a 0.5-1 per cent chance of being wounded and a 5-6 per cent chance of being captured and jailed abroad. By comparison, the deadliest civilian occupation in the US, that of the king-crab fisherman, has an on-the-job fatality rate of about 400 per 100,000, or 0.4 per cent.
Let me add to the statistical zest by noting that a top-flight king crab fisherman can make upwards of $10,000 per day—though, granted that figure was bandied about before the Russians came along and started diluting the stock.
(h/t Russ Mitchell)