Automation – Needed A Holistic View

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series Automation and Jobs

This article goes on to examine the impact of productivity increase in sector on other sectors of the economy.

The sectors supplying to the automated sector will see increased demand and more jobs, but that will also be eventually eroded due to automation in those sectors.

Some sectors, especially related to natural economy like farming, will lose their former character and thousands, even millions will lose their livelihood.

Less jobs or more jobs, the demand on the workers to prolong working hours and intensify work will increase.

The main lesson is that we should study the impact of automation in each case comprehensively and come to a broader understanding.

Automation and Jobs – 5

[How automation increases work in related fields]

  • Less jobs or more jobs, the demand on the workers to prolong working hours and intensify work will increase.

    The number of the men condemned to work in coal and metal mines increased enormously owing to the progress of the English factory system; but during the last few decades this increase of number has been less rapid, owing to the use of new machinery in mining. [a]

  • A new type of workman springs into life along with the machine, namely, its maker. We have already learnt that machinery has possessed itself even of this branch of production on a scale that grows greater every day. [b]
  • As to raw material, [c] there is not the least doubt that the rapid strides of cotton spinning, not only pushed on with tropical luxuriance the growth of cotton in the United States, and with it the African slave trade, but also made the breeding of slaves the chief business of the border slave-states.
    When, in 1790, the first census of slaves was taken in the United States, their number was 697,000; in 1861 it had nearly reached four millions.

[But, workers in many other fields lose their jobs]

On the other hand, it is no less certain that the rise of the English woollen factories, together with the gradual conversion of arable land into sheep pasture, brought, about the superfluity of agricultural labourers that led to their being driven in masses into the towns.

Ireland, having during the last twenty years reduced its population by nearly one half, is at this moment undergoing the process of still further reducing the number of its inhabitants, so as exactly to suit the requirements of its landlords and of the English woollen manufacturers.

When machinery is applied to any of the preliminary or intermediate stages through which the subject of labour has to pass on its way to completion, there is an increased yield of material in those stages, and simultaneously an increased demand for labour in the handicrafts or manufactures supplied by the produce of the machines.

Some sectors, especially related to natural economy like farming, will lose their former character and thousands, even millions will lose their livelihood.

Spinning by machinery, for example, supplied yarn so cheaply and so abundantly that the hand-loom weavers were, at first, able to work full time without increased outlay. Their earnings accordingly rose. [d] Hence a flow of people into the cotton-weaving trade, till at length the 800,000 weavers, called into existence by the Jenny, the throstle and the mule, were overwhelmed by the power-loom. So also, owing to the abundance of clothing materials produced by machinery, the number of tailors, seamstresses and needle women, went on increasing until the appearance of the sewing-machine.

In proportion as machinery, with the aid of a relatively small number of work people, increases the mass of raw materials, intermediate products, instruments of labour, &c., the working-up of these raw materials and intermediate products becomes split up into numberless branches; social production increases in diversity. The factory system carries the social division of labour immeasurably further than does manufacture, for it increases the productiveness of the industries it seizes upon, in a far higher degree.

a. According to the census of 1861 (Vol. II., Lond., 1863), the number of people employed in coal mines in England and Wales, amounted to 246,613 of which 73,545 were under, and 173,067 were over 20 years. Of those under 20, 835 were between 5 and 10 years, 30,701 between 10 and 15 years, 42,010 between 15 and 19 years. The number employed in iron, copper, lead, tin, and other mines of every description, was 319, 222.

b. In England and Wales, in 1861, there were employed in making machinery, 60,807 persons, including the masters and their clerks, &c., also all agents and business people connected with this industry, but excluding the makers of small machines, such as sewing-machines, &c., as also the makers of the operative parts of machines, such as spindles. The total number of civil engineers amounted to 3,329.

c. Since iron is one of the most important raw materials; let me here state that, in 1861, there were in England and Wales 125,771 operative iron founders, of whom 123,430 were males, 2,341 females. Of the former 30,810 were under, and 92,620 over 20 years.

d. “A family of four grown-up persons, with two children as winders, earned at the end of the last, and the beginning of the present century, by ten hours’ daily labour, £4 a week. If the work was very pressing, they could earn more…. Before that, they had always suffered from a deficient supply of yarn.” (Gaskell, l.c., pp. 25-27.)

From Karl Marx Capital Volume One
Chapter Fifteen: Machinery and Modern Industry

Series Navigation<< Automation, More Jobs, Less Work – Possible?How Capitalism Wastes Increased Productivity of Automation >>

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