Reply to post: Someone's probably said it but...

Basic income after automation? That’s not how capitalism works

Kiwi Silver badge

Someone's probably said it but...

Late to the party as I so often do...

In the future, it will be mathematically impossible for everyone who wants a job to find one. We can therefore no longer deny income to those who don’t work.

We have that here in NZ. As do many other countries. The reason so many are out of work? Well, yes, sorry Mr Key et al but the big reason is that so many jobs have become "automated" or gone overseas, largely to factories that have a huge amount of machinery replacing jobs.

The ideas espoused in the article - that increasing productivity can go on forever, are obviously flawed. So the shoe maker can double her work. And in time instead of doing 400 shoes per week she'll do that per hour. But instead of paying people to do more productivity, many companies lay off excess staff. After all, the shoe factory has several limits on how many shoes it can produce : limits on market (how many people will buy their product), limits on supplies (they can get 50 ton of leather shipped in per week, therefore they can only use 50 ton of leather per week - doesn't matter if they can run through that in a minute or the whole week, that's the limit).

I used to do some support work in a large warehouse not far from me. 10 years ago they had some 50 people working 3 shifts to handle the various jobs : some loading/unloading trucks, some doing office work, but the vast majority doing the work of grabbing product off the shelves, loading it onto pallets for the various shops ready for the incoming trucks to collect. Now each shift has 2 forklift operators, 2-4 people handling orders (ie putting the orders into the computer), and just 3 people on the shop floor. The rest have been replaced by automation. There's been a slight increase in the overall workload - a couple more shops added, but the savings are significant - the savings on over 30 people's worth of wages per year is quite significant.

Then there's the flow on effect. The shop that they generally went to for lunch etc? Well guess what happened to a large part of their custom when those workers were made redundant. Fortunately they have a fairly large catchment area but if another firm replaces a large amount of staff.

When I was born, it was reasonable to not only expect you'd have your job for life, but that you could also bring your child into the same role. But most products were made here, and most products were quite labour-intensive to make (compared with today). Then we got cheap imports, machines that could literally replace a hundred workers, and so many jobs lost to automation or lost overseas. We now have children whose parents have never had a job, and that is much likely to get worse. And it's not from comfortable benefit levels - they're barely subsistence levels.

So yes, it is quite certain that technology will replace more and more jobs. You cannot have ever-increasing sales of product to sell, you are limited by how many people will buy and how much raw materials you can receive/process

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