By Frances Coppola
May 17, 2013
Frances Coppola explores how increasing automation is fundamentally shifting the nature of work away from 'making stuff' towards personal services.
One of the most interesting issues to arise in the course of the "comment-athon" on my post "The Golden Calf" was the suggestion that the link between money and work is broken, and indeed that there is no longer a reliable link between "earning" and working. This is a logical consequence of two things: firstly, increased automation of production means the number of people needed to produce enough goods to meet people's basic needs is declining; secondly, an increasing number of people do considerable amounts of pro bono" work that is directly beneficial to society. The converse to this latter point is that there also seems to be a broken link between remuneration for work and the benefit of that work to society as a whole: there are people who are rewarded very handsomely for work that benefits few people (mostly people like themselves), and there are other people who are paid very little or even nothing at all for work that benefits far more people.
Of course, there has always been pro bono work. Women have always worked unpaid in the home: their work is not counted in measures of GDP, but in high-profile divorce cases the financial value of a woman's unpaid work supporting her extremely wealthy husband has led to some exceedingly high settlements. It is of course possible to value the housework and childcare done by most women without pay, because there are thriving industries in domestic help and childminding: the "opportunity cost" for a woman who chooses to do the work herself rather than employ others, and therefore foregoes paid work, is of course the difference between the income from paid work and the cost of employing others to look after the kids and keep the house clean. Where a woman has a lot of children, that difference can be so small (or even negative) that it is simply not worth her while doing paid work.
Read the rest here.