The golden handcuff – being stuck in a high-paying job that you don’t like

The golden handcuff – being stuck in a high-paying job that you don’t like. Picture: Supplied

The golden handcuff – being stuck in a high-paying job that you don’t like. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 16, 2024


In a world where the media industry’s vastness and competitiveness often lead individuals to pursue alternative career paths for better pay, a phenomenon known as the “Golden Handcuff” emerges.

This term encapsulates the strategy employed by companies to offer financial incentives that deter employees from seeking opportunities elsewhere. Essentially, individuals are enticed to remain within a company due to higher compensation, even if it means sacrificing their passion pursuits.

However, in South Africa, this concept takes a starkly different turn. With an alarming 32% unemployment rate, many individuals find themselves settling for any available job, regardless of their qualifications, experience or aspirations.

The notion of pursuing one's passion seems like a distant dream, overshadowed by the grim reality of securing any form of employment. Once a job is secured, individuals often feel constrained from exploring their dream careers, as merely having a job is viewed as a privilege in itself.

As employees, we often grapple with a crucial question: What holds greater significance, financial stability or passion? This dilemma is greatly captured in a memorable line from the film The Sun is also a Star, where Charles Melton’s character delivers the heartfelt statement: “It’s hard to be passionate on a hungry stomach.” This sentiment underscores the harsh reality that economic struggles can dampen our ability to pursue our passions and dreams.

In response to these challenges, a growing number of South Africans are seeking opportunities abroad, particularly in countries such as Canada and the US.

Programmes such as air hosting, au pair initiatives, and positions with Disney cruises offer enticing prospects, creating avenues for employment that surpass those available domestically.

For many South Africans, these international opportunities represent their own version of the “Golden Cuff”, luring them with promises of better job security, economic stability, and safety amid challenges like load shedding, rampant unemployment, and crime back home.

In conclusion, the South African job market presents a paradox wherein the pursuit of passion clashes with the imperative of financial stability. While some may find themselves torn between these two ideals, others are compelled to seek opportunities beyond their borders in search of a brighter future.

As the landscape continues to evolve, individuals must navigate this complex landscape, weighing the trade-offs between security and fulfilment in their career choices.

Ultimately, the decision rests in finding the delicate balance between following one’s passion and securing a livelihood in an uncertain world.

The Star

Kgomotso Masebuko