The following points highlight the top fourteen characteristics of labour in economics.
Some of the characteristics are: 1. Labour is original and indispensable factor of production 2. Labour is an active factor of production 3. Labour is perishable than any other commodity 4. Labour cannot be separated from the labourer and Others.
Characteristics # 1. Labour is original and indispensable factor of production:
Labour is original and indispensable factor of production without it the work of production is not possible.
Labour is very important means in comparison to other means of production. It is because of Labour the use of land and other natural means is possible. In production work Labour plays active role.
Characteristics # 2. Labour is an active factor of production:
Land and capital are considered as the passive factor of production, because they alone cannot start the production process. Production from land and capital starts only when a man makes efforts. Production begins with the active participation of man. Therefore, Labour is an active factor of production.
Characteristics # 3. Labour is perishable than any other commodity:
Labour is more perishable than other factors of production. It means Labour cannot be stored. The Labour of an unemployed worker is lost forever for that day when he does not work. Labour can neither be postponed nor accumulated for the next day. It will perish. Once time is lost, it is lost forever.
Characteristics # 4. Labour cannot be separated from the labourer:
Land and capital can be separated from their owner, but Labour cannot be separated from a labourer. Labour and labourer are indispensable for each other. For example—It is not possible to bring the ability of a teacher to teach in the school, leaving the teacher at home. The labour of a teacher can work only if he himself is present in the class. Therefore, Labour and labourer cannot be separated from each other.
Characteristics # 5. Labour is less mobile:
As compared to capital and other goods, Labour is less mobile. Capital can be easily transferred from one place to other, but Labour cannot be transported easily from its present place to other places. A labourer is not ready to go to far off places leaving his native place and his kith and kin. Therefore, Labour has less mobility.
Characteristics # 6. Labour supply is inelastic:
The supply of Labour is often found inelastic in a country at a particular time. It means that their supply can neither be increased nor decreased if the need demands so. For example—If a country has a scarcity of a particular type of workers, their supply cannot be increased within a day, month or year.
Labourers cannot be “made to order” like other goods. The Supply of Labour can be increased to a limited extent by importing Labour from other countries in the short period. The supply of Labour is very much dependent upon the size of population. Population cannot be increased or decreased quickly. Therefore, the supply of Labour has been considered as inelastic to a great extent. It cannot be increased or decreased immediately.
Characteristics # 7. A labourer sells his labour and not himself:
A labourer sells his Labour for wages and not himself. The worker sells work but he himself remains his own property. For example—When we purchase an animal, we become owners of the services as well as the body of that animal. But we cannot become the owner of a labourer in this sense.
Characteristics # 8. Labour has weak bargaining power:
Labourers have a very weak bargaining power, because their Labour cannot be stored and they are poor, ignorant and less organised. Moreover, Labour as a class does not have reserves to fall back upon when either there is no work or the wage rate is so low that it is not worth working. Poor labourers have to work for their subsistence. Therefore, the labourers have a weak bargaining power as compared to the employers.
Characteristics # 9. Labour is both the beginning and the end of production:
The presence of land and capital alone cannot make production. Production can be started only, with the help of Labour. It means Labour is the beginning of production. Goods are produced to satisfy human wants. When we consume them, production comes to an end. Therefore, Labour is both the beginning and the end of production.
Characteristics # 10. Efficiency of labour differs:
Labourer differs in efficiency some labourers are more efficient due to their ability, training and skill, whereas others are less efficient on account of their illiteracy and ignorance etc.
Characteristics # 11. Labour cannot be engaged continuously in production like machine:
Every labourer has his ability and efficiency to work. He has his own tastes, habits and feelings. Therefore, labourers cannot be made to work like machines. Labourers cannot work round the clock, like machines. After continuous work for a few hours, leisure is essential for them.
Characteristics # 12. Labour creates capital:
Capital is formulated and accumulated by Labour. It is evident that Labour is more important in the process of production than capital because capital is the result of the working of Labour.
Characteristics # 13. It is difficult to calculate the cost of production of labour:
We can calculate the cost of production of a machine ; but it is not easy to calculate the cost of production of a labourer. It is very difficult to calculate the cost of bringing up children as to how much is the total cost on his education, food, clothes etc.
Characteristics # 14. Labour has no tangible form:
Labour has no tangible form just like labour has no reserve price. Labourer can be seen, can be touched but labour cannot be seen.