Get the answer of: Why do People Specialise at Work? Also learn about advantages and merits of division of labour.
Even in a subsistence economy people specialised. For instance, one person farmed while another collected wood, and so on. This specialisation was by-product. As the scale of production expanded division of labour occurred on a finer scale. People specialise by process, i.e., they make part of a product — e.g., fish is caught, filleted, packed and sold by different people. Today most consumer durables are produced on a large scale by the joint efforts of thousands of workers.
Specialisation occurs at various levels in a modern society — individual, factory, firm, industry. All workers are specialists.
For instance, the individual may have a specialised job, e.g., paint spraying in a factory which concentrates on one aspect of production such as car-body assembly. This factory may be part of a large firm which sells different makes of car in the vehicle industry.
The vehicle industry includes the production of bicycles, motor bikes, buses, lorries and vans as well as cars. Throughout this industry, the division of labour operates with different workers working separately and each producing something which contributes to the production of the final product.
When workers specialise in doing one job, or part of a job, this is called the division of labour. In a modern economy, nearly everyone who works specialises. Many people never use the goods and services they produce. For example, non-smokers who work in a cigarette factory will never use what they are making.
Some people specialise so much that they never make a whole product; they just make a small part of it. This happens especially when goods are made on a production line. On a production line (or assembly line) the workers stay in one place, and they do their bit of the work as the product moves past them, usually on a conveyor belt. For example, on a production line in a car factory one person may put on wheels, while another puts in windscreens.
The advantages of the division of labour are:
1. People become faster or more skilled at what they are doing:
An experienced typist, for example, may type at more than 60 words per minute, and make few errors.
2. Specialisation leads to the production of many more goods and services:
When cars were built by hand with each worker using a variety of skills, relatively few could be produced. Modern car factories, which are organised on the basis of huge production lines, where each worker concentrates on one task, can produce well a few thousand cars a year.
3. Specialised, more efficient machinery can be employed:
Large-scale production makes the fullest and most efficient use of machinery and equipment, and allows the use of special machinery that would not be economic if production took place on a smaller scale. The cost per unit of production usually falls when production increases.
In a big office, for example, a word processor can be employed because it will be in constant use. A small office might manage its work with a typewriter because the amount and variety of work would not justify the expense of a word processor. Specialised machinery and equipment may be expensive at first but save money in the long run.
4. If goods are cheaper to produce they can be sold at lower prices:
The cost of production is one of the main factors affecting the supply of goods. If costs fall the supply curve moves to the right and prices come down. Simple products which can be produced in huge numbers, like some ballpoint pens, can be sold for a few rupees each.
5. If people do only one job they waste no time moving around:
In a well-organised workplace, if people do only one task, there will be less waste of tools and time. The greater the degree of specialisation, the less time people will spend moving around and therefore not producing. The worker doing a variety of tasks will have to use a variety of tools and many tools will remain idle for most of the time.
6. People can be employed in the jobs to which they are more suited:
This applies equally to people who already have a particular skill or profession. For example, a solicitor can specialise in a particular aspect of law.
The disadvantages of the division of labour are:
1. Workers can become bored:
The division of labour can mean that people do the same jobs, day in, day out. This can lead to poor quality work because people lose interest. Mistakes may occur when people take no pride in their work. Workers get bored and alienated by doing the same job day after day. This is not only unpleasant for the worker, but could lead to poorer work effort and standards.
2. Lack of variety:
Variety is the spice of life. Although the division of labour allows more goods to be produced at a cheaper price, these goods tend to be similar to mass-produced products. Traditional craft goods, which satisfy individual needs or tastes and preferences, may disappear.
3. If one or small group of people stop work it could hold up everyone:
With the division of labour, everyone depends on everyone else. A record factory relies on supplies from a plastics factory. If the plastics factory supplies a faulty batch or has a machine breakdown, then this could halt production in the record factory.
4. The danger of unemployment:
Workers who have been trained in only one skill may find it difficult to get another job if the demand for that kind of labour falls.
Limitations of the division of labour:
Division of labour has no use or only limited use in some circumstances.
These are as follows:
1. The division of labour is limited by the size of the market:
A firm producing high quality, expensive jewellery would produce a relatively small output, because there would be a small market.
2. The division of labour is limited by the nature of the produce or process involved:
For example, a best-selling novelist, even if he or she had a huge market, would be unable to divide the task of writing a book into a number of tasks that could be shared out among a number of different people. There is limited scope for specialisation in the process of writing a novel.
3. The division of labour is limited by the amount of labour available:
When factories developed in India in the last 50 years or so labour forces were needed to enable the principle of the division of labour to be used extensively. Workers were drawn from agriculture to provide this labour, and without it the division of labour would have been limited.
4. The division of labour is limited by the extent to which money is used in exchange:
If money did not exist, people who specialised would have to barter the goods and services they produced for the goods and services they needed.
5. The division of labour requires transport:
If people are to produce for other people to consume, there must be transport to take the goods from producers to consumers, as the consumers may be distributed over a very wide area.
The increased production and reduced cost per unit have led to a general improvement in the standard of living. Individual workers can concentrate on the jobs for which they are best suited. Thus, a man interested in motor repairs may become a mechanic and not worry about production of food and clothing and construction of houses as these jobs are performed by others.
Because of the division of labour we can buy a large number of different goods and services and we can work in a variety of different jobs. Some of the most boring jobs created by the division of labour, particularly those found on factory production lines, are rapidly disappearing as machines and robots take over.
People will have to find work providing services rather than making goods. The amount of work that is available could fall. People may either have to accept longer periods of unemployment, or share work, or work shorter hours.