Friday, December 25, 2015

The Santa Effect

Elves are the unsung heroes at Christmas, in my opinion. Everyone waits with anticipation for Santa's visit, urgently wishing that he bestow something upon them - material or otherwise. It's a fantasy for children and borders on religion for adults. Rotund men, I've been told, have been know to dress up as him.

And what thanks do the elves get? No adoration, no letters full of hopefulness, no moment in the spotlight, they're just behind the scenes making it all happen.

Really, when you come to think of it, the whole Santa industry is a vast, international enterprise of truly global proportions. Let's talk about the numbers: There are roughly 2.2 billion children in the world. If elves made toys at a rate of twice as fast as I knit scarves, then an elf makes roughly two toys per year.

But these are professional elves. Based on what I get done in a given tax season, and assuming there's relatively little automation involved, let's assume each elf can make 100 toys in roughly 16 weeks. That would mean there are 22 million elves employed from roughly mid-September until midnight of December 23rd.

Now, I know for a fact that Santa employs elves as independent contractors all around the world which means he has to have a team of lawyer and accountant elves to sort out international labor and tax laws. Assuming 10% of the elves are resident to the North Pole and the rest are evenly dispersed around the globe according to population, that would mean there are roughly 88,000 elves currently residing in the United States.

The American elves are currently employed as independent contractors but, as with Uber, there is some brouhaha surrounding the issues of payroll tax withholding and the lack of employee benefits, namely health insurance, for which Santa would be responsible if they were to be classified as employees. Whether or not the Egalitarian Lilliputian Federation will win their case (pending in federal court), the elves making artisanal, eco-friendly toys made from locally sourced tools and materials for kids in Oregon will remain as independent contractors by definition.

Regardless of the outcome of this case, there is the issue of compensation. The North Pole currency is entirely denominated in cookies as it is the only source of income collected within 24 hours (not accounting for rotation of the earth between midnight of the 23rd and 24th). It takes several days to settle accounts but when wages are paid on the 31st there's a regular cookie jam at North Pole ATMs.

For elves not residing at the North Pole, cookies must be converted to local currency. This is done through a clearing house set up by the elves at Keebler. Gluten free cookies are fed to the reindeer as they are otherwise worthless.

The Santa elves, for the most part, take up employment elsewhere during the rest of the year (a large percentage of which pick up seasonal work with the IRS). However, there are a number of elves employed year round at the North Pole and it's high time we give them recognition for their efforts (in no particular order) by area of work:
  • Package Logistics 
  • Sleigh Mechanics 
  • Global Supply Chain Management 
  • Reindeer Handlers 
  • Abominable Snowman Defense 
  • International Military Coordination Liaison 
  • Santa's and Mrs. Claus's stylist 
  • Wig Maker 
  • Santa's Nutritionist 
  • Public Relations 
  • Appearances Coordinator 
  • Letter Readers and Correspondence 
  • Optometrist 
  • Dentist 
Next year, as you're waiting for Santa to appear, take a moment to reflect on what's really coming down your chimney.

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