Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Technology and Voluntary Workforce Attrition

Welcome back my friends
To the show that never ends
We're so glad you could attend
Come inside, come inside
--Emerson, Lake & Palmer

The title of this missive suggests another piece on technology crowding out labor in the workplace. Instead, the author is more focused on the effect of emerging information technologies such as social networking on propensity to work.

The author posits that the decline in labor force participation is due to people, particularly young people, having more of their needs satisfied by info technology. This in turn is proposed to reduce peoples' need to work to obtain resources, and to reduce the need for products that would otherwise be necessary if people were commuting to, and doing more, work.

While there is some novelty to this argument, the empirical data that he provides do not support it. Jobless and participation rates have been falling for periods longer than Facebook and Twitter have been around, with primary inflection points on/around tech bubble poppage--the beginning of early deflationary action.

Moreover, the proposition that technology makes leisure more attractive compared to work might make more sense if standard of living were high with few obligations to care for. Currently, however, general standard of living is stagnating and debt load is high.

This means that, absent a windfall of innovation that permits efficient payback of debt, people will need to work more in the future in order to approach today's standard of living while paying back what they owe.

While they might lighten the workload a bit, info technologies like social networking seem unlikely to drive large amounts of voluntary attrition from work.

1 comment:

dgeorge12358 said...

Back in 1900 over 40 percent of the America’s workforce was employed in agriculture. One hundred years later the percentage had fallen to less than two percent. What happened was technology.
~Douglas French