Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Perth: Reflecting on Productivity

The alternative to cheap labour - education and multi-tasking.

Our day-trip coach driver

  • Handles the 4-wheel drive
  • Shepherds our group of 17
  • Teaches us how to do sand boarding
  • Deflates, then inflates the tires of the vehicle when necessary
  • Introduces the places of interest we come across
  • Tells jokes during the long drives,  AND 
  • Cleans up the coach at the end of the trip
That's all in a day's work for him. Considering that the day's excitement made us sleep through most of the time on the coach, I can't imagine what stamina he had to keep going like that. 

Yet I see in him an example of how productivity could be raised so that people could get good wages, without incurring higher costs for businesses. 

In places where labour is plentiful but poorly paid, such jobs would typically be shared  out among 2 or even 3 workers - one to guide, another to drive, and a third man to...sort of be useful. While their work requirements are naturally lower, their pay would correspondingly be so too. Unfortunately, these men would have each worked the same number of hours as our multi-tasking guide, except that the value of the work they produced is lower, having shared the duties among the three of them. 

To order to merit higher pay, these workers have to increase their productivity, but notice that this is not done by putting in longer hours. If they could be trained to carry out a wider range of duties, and if some of the superfluous demands could be streamlined, they too could command better pay. 

This seems to me to be the right direction for a well educated population to move towards. After all, no one likes being stuck in low-paying, poor-value jobs, but we can't give graduate salaries to everyone unless they deserve it. 

1 comment:

snake said...

Would like this post if i could