Technology and automation has led to much greater efficiencies and output for every human in the workforce over the last 50 years. How come this hasn’t led globally to less working hours or a shorter work week for the average worker?


EDIT: Replace ‘every human in the workforce’ with ‘most people’. I agree efficiency has not been gained equally across all professions.

In: Economics

Demand is infinite. As we become more efficient at delivering the supply it doesn’t lighten the load or get us closer to the finish line, hence no slow down. This positive feedback loop in the supply demand model is one of the things that makes capitalism so powerful at first and ultimately unsustainable

I’m not sure if there’s a way to answer this question without politicizing it to some extent.

Basically, business leaders didn’t see the gains in efficiency as an opportunity to reduce hours for their workers. They saw it as an opportunity to make more stuff for less money and thus make more profit.

Because rather than hire two people to work 20 hours a week they hire one to work 40.

And because they pay D dollars before automation and advancements and also D dollars after no one could live off 20 hours a week of pay anyway.

It does increase production rates of the company which leads to bigger and more profitable contracts but that just translates to a more profitable business for the owners.

The rich get richer.

It has led to that.
There are over six-million part time workers in the US that want to be full time, but the hours are not available. In other words they do have less working hours and a shorter work week.
The utopian idea that a worker would have reduced work time and still make the same amount of money is not grounded in even the most simple economic principles.
Technology has advanced efficiency, that means that a industry needs fewer workers and needs them for less time or it means they can use the same workforce to make more of their product over the same time period.
Given the choice, if the market allows, most companies will choose to work their people the same time and make more money.

Globally we are not there.

While automation can lead to more efficiencies it doesn’t mean there’s less work to go around. In most cases it just makes the human more efficient allowing them to do more with their time and at the same time employers can hire fewer workers working the same hours to do a particular job.