I haven’t written in the longest time. My last post, I see, was back in November. What could, you would ask, force an able-body-human-being-who-enjoys-sharing-his-unwanted-opinions-with-strangers (that’s my real name) to stay away from writing and almost forget the password of the blogsite?
The answer my friends, is blowing in the increase in productivity numbers. You see, productivity numbers are misleading by themselves. In times of technological change and advance, the core increase of productivity may be related to improvements on the amount of products the same worker can produce at the same time. This, although increases the plus-value extracted to the worker and (in theoretical Marxist terms would increase the exploitation of the worker) in practice may translate in benefits for both worker and entrepreneur (particularly if you have some form of profit sharing in place, like during the early times of the software industry or the German economy).
However, when technological advances are stagnant, the only way to increase productivity is to increase direct exploitation of the work force. This direct exploitation would be in the form of slave salaries (off-shoring labor cost to third world countries) or by increasing the work hours of the existing labor force by threat of starvation.
High unemployment hangs by a thread a rock over every worker’s head. High unemployment doesn’t affect only those unemployed or underemployed, but it sends a message across society: “Beware, you could be next”.
When your business friends and partners are falling, when rational investment opportunities dwindle, and when the ghost of unemployment comes close home, you tend to fall for the trap. You head the threat and you work harder, lowering your salary in relative terms without need for any explicit request: The net result, an increase in productivity.
This increase in productivity, however, is just an illusion. There is only so much water you can extract from rocks. When increases in productivity comes on the back of real exploitation of the workforce, or by means of ever decreasing salaries by moving production to more impoverished countries (is Haiti the next China, or just the next Jamaica?) you know you are not facing a real increase in productivity. You are facing an overproduction crisis.
As you can see, both my personal destiny (as part of the workforce on high tech on the most powerful country on earth) and the destiny of every worker affected by globalization are the same. I am immensely richer than them, I am extremely more comfortable than them, and I have more liberty, but all those things hang by the same thin thread of the first global overproduction crisis.
- Productivity rises more than expected in Q4 (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Productivity up, employment down: Is squeezing workers good for America? (dailyfinance.com)
- U.S. Wage Growth: The Downward Spiral (yzerfonteinchronicles.blogspot.com)
Franklin @ February 23, 2010