This is a guest post by 18 year old Olly Dunn who is currently a sixth form student. He is undertaking work experience at BlueSky and is hoping to study business & marketing at university next year. Do leave a comment and let him know what you think of his first ever blog...
A recent article in the business section of The Times focused on Nescafé’s introduction of a new humanoid robot in Japan named Pepper, whose purpose is to sell coffee machines. It is able to read people’s facial expressions and emotions and can respond to questions surrounding the product or coffee in general, replacing staff that would usually do this. So while some may blame immigration for the lack of employment opportunities for the lower skilled workforce, technology and its advances may be the true cause.
Ever since the industrial revolution of the 1700s, firms have strived to become more efficient and reduce costs. Never has this been more relevant than in today’s economic environment. In today’s economy, organisations aim to meet the increasing demands for a range of products and better services that have been derived from our capitalist foundations of profit maximisation and greed.
Revolution or Evolution?
The first revolutionary change in the modern era was in the 1900s through Henry Ford’s perfection of replacing the assembly line in his car manufacturing business with a conveyor belt system, which reduced Ford’s labour costs and also cut manufacturing time down to 93 minutes. Ford quickly monopolised the car market and other firms were forced to adapt their production strategies in order to compete. This change sparked the beginnings of a movement towards general technical economies of scale. Other examples include organisations such as Colgate as they replaced their workforce, who would have screwed on the toothpaste caps by hand, with machines that are able to do so in under a second. Personnel were being replaced by machines, reducing long-term costs whilst simultaneously increasing efficiency allowing the eruption of demand to be met alongside the firm’s own demand for increased profits.
The key themes I am emphasising here are efficiency and greed. Efficiency is the answer to the demands and greed of the modern day consumer. Take the evolution of the checkout in supermarkets for example. The stereotype of Brits loving queues could not be more wrong in this case. We are continuously complaining (another thing we love to do, and research actually supports this) about the amount of time we are stood in line waiting to buy our weekly shop. Supermarkets have worked on reducing this waiting time and have since introduced self-checkouts in order to speed up the process - but at what cost? This is another instance of replacing the workforce with machines, driven by the insatiable greed for profit and allowing firms to sell more stock at a faster rate than ever.
The evolution of the work place has damaged our nostalgic view of being proud of what we have engineered and built ourselves, and shouldn’t we be aiming to promote these ideals? No longer should we accept the easy option of the so called inevitable monopolisation of the work force by robots to improve efficiency and costs. We should aim to support a modern industrial economy and work hard to manufacture products, rejecting the easy option of technology and reverse the new robotic revolution. However, this all starts with us. We are the problem. Our increased demand and impatience feeds the need for a modern day technical revolution. If we are not so demanding and greedy as consumers then firms won’t be either.
So what is the real cause for a lack of jobs - immigrants or robots? Those who support parties such as UKIP may believe it is the Polish who are “stealing” our jobs (even though they take the jobs we aren’t willing to do, again highlighting our love for complaining), but really the problem is a lot closer to home, in fact it is on our doorstep. It is the technical advances that are eroding job opportunities and so let’s not blame the immigrants but the technology developed by profit seeking firms.