Will we run out of work to do?


Full Question:

Capitalism needs consumer to buy goods and services. At the same time all companies are trying to reduce labor. Will there not be enough work for all?

Farming today needs vastly less people than 100 years ago. Industrial production in most companies can produce vastly more with the same number of staff than 20 years ago. Even service jobs are being replaced, think automated check-out counters or nursing robots. 

Will we run out of work? And if yes, what will be the consequences?


I don't think that we will ever run out of work. There's always work to be done. With technology, it seems like we are losing work : but that's only the work that is now rendered obsolete by the new technology. However, to balance this out, new technology creates jobs: jobs that did not exist before. So it's just the types of work that need doing that change.

Christian Kober: 

Thank you for answering. But is there any research or evidence supporting your argument? The core of your argument is that it balances out. 

Yet one could argue as well that the absolute amount of work has decreased over the last 400 years. In agricultural societies everybody worked. Children started to help early, there were no holidays and no retirement.

With the onset of the industrial revolution work has been reduced. People started having holidays, children were not supposed to work anymore, people started to 'retire'. 

In my country over the last 80 years we have seen the introduction of the 2d weekend (before it was 1d), the reduction of the working hours from 50 to 40, the increase in holidays to now 30d/year. In my opinion this is evidence that work, either in absolute terms or in hrs/capita, has been greatly reduced.

Marquez Comelab

Thank you Christian for allowing me to extend the conversation and think about this interesting question a little bit more. I think I see where you're coming from, if you're looking at it from the absolute amount of hours worked. 

I am approaching your question from quite at least two angles. 

The first angle is that indeed, as you say, there have been a reduction of work that we do as a percentage of our daily lives. Most of this is perhaps explainable by the advances in technology and our discovery of sources of energy and using that energy. 

However, looking at the past is not something I would do to to seek the answers for this question. The reason for this is that if someone choses not to work it doesn't mean that there is no work to do. 

The question to me is: will we ever run out of things to do to continue surviving. And the answer to that question is, "No". There is always work to be done. Even now, there are big problems: population growth straining our resources to supply food in the near future, climate change, the need to continue finding and harnessing sources of energy. At any given moment, an asteroid can hit Earth and send us all to oblivion. Superbugs are now becoming immune to antibiotics and already thousands die from such infections. Those are huge problems that not enough people are working on. 

If we choose not to employ ourselves in those endeavours, we will die as a species. Maybe we ought to work some more if we are to solve these massive problems on time. Unemployment or underemployment is a choice, but with risky results. But the need to work and improve if we want to survive, is not really a choice.

Maybe I should have went with this answer first after having the chance to think about my answer some more

Do you have a different answer that might help the questioner? How would you answer this question?

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