The profit motive has led to more and more services being automated. The increase in self-service – at banks, airports, petrol stations and supermarkets for instance – also reduces the number of jobs but increases the amount of profit. The economist Herman Daly makes the point that automation and self-service also reduces the number of human interactions we have and it reduces the number of ‘entry-level’ jobs available. By getting people to serve themselves businesses are simply labour-shifting.
As Herman Daly says:
“…the automation of services of bank tellers, gas station attendants, etc. is usually praised as labor-saving technical progress. To some extent it is that, but it also represents labor-shifting to the consumer. The consumer does not even get the minimum wage for his extra work, even considering the dubious claim that he enjoys lower prices in return for his self-service. Ordinary human contacts are diminished and commerce becomes more sterile and impersonally mechanical. In particular interaction between people of different socio-economic classes is reduced.”
Social equity is reducing in many western countries including New Zealand. The ideology of economic growth which fuels the profit motive leads to an ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor.
It is time we listened to economists like Herman Daly, Tim Jackson and E.F. Schumacher because our future will only be ensured if we stop thinking in terms of economic growth and start thinking in terms of social equity and environmental sustainability.
Read Herman Daly’s article here: Elitist Growth by Cheap Labor Policies