By division of labor we mean an arrangement where by people perform different functions at the same time. Though the term, 'Division of labor' is applied in the field of economics, yet infact division of labor in modern society is not limited simply to labor but applies to all the factors of production and exists beyond the purely economic field. There may be three forms of division of labor.
(i) Social division of labor
This means division into occupation. Thus, there are farmers, weavers, teachers, priests, laborers etc.
(ii) Technical division of labor
This means the division of labor within a particular enterprise. Thus within a factory there are weavers, spinners, designers, accountants, managers and engineers. The work may be divided into complete tasks like spinning, weaving, bleaching, designing, finishing etc. or it may by divided into incomplete processes. It is said that work in a modern spinning factory is divided into 18 processes. Technical division of labor is marked feature of modern machine age.
(iii) Territorial division of labor
This is also known as localization of industries. Certain places or regions come to specialize in the making of certain articles; Hosiery at Ludhiana, Cotton textiles at Ahmadabad and Bombay, Jute industry at Calcutta, Leather industry at Agra and Kanpur etc.
Division of labor is based on the principle of co-operation or interdependence. The different persons among whom the work is divided co-operate in the production of a thing for example, to make a chair, one group is engaged in making backs another seats and still another joining them and finally there is group of workers polishing the chairs. All of them co-operate and through their cooperation, a chair is made. Division of labor is both a divisional and integrating social principle.
Division of labor is found in all societies. In the earlier societies marked by handicraft economy it was a simple division of labor. The societies in those days were a simple organization based upon primary group relationships. Such a society neither needs nor permits a wide range of economic specialization. Economy was a self-sufficient type. There were little trades and techniques were few and simple. There was a little need for supervision and authority.
In modern machine age, division of labor is a complicated phenomenon. Now there are thousands of workers in an industry to perform different specialized task in order to produce, say a pair of shoes. A line of command is necessary to ensure that all these workers perform their individual tasks in an integrated manner. Merits of division of labor.
Division of labor is an inevitable feature of the modern industrial system. It is advantageous in the following ways.
Merits of Division of Labor
(i) The right man in the right place
Under division of labor, the chance is that each man will get the job for which he is best fitted. There will be no round pegs in square holes. The work will be better done.
(ii) The worker becomes an expert
Practice makes a man perfect; under division of labor, the worker repeats his task. By constant repetition, he is bound to become expert in his task. He will be able to turn our better goods. There is an increase in the skill and craftsmanship.
(iii) Heavy work taken over by machinery
Division of labor makes it possible for heavy work to be passed on to machinery. Only light work is done by workers so that there is less strain on them.
(iv) Less training required
As the worker has to do only a part of the job, he needs to learn only that much. Long and costly training is rendered unnecessary. It will take long time for a man to lean how to make a complete chair but it will take him less time to learn how to polish it.
When a man is doing the same work over and over again some new ideas are bound to occur. This leads to many inventions. These inventions make for economic progress.
(vi) Cheaper things.
On account of mass production make possible by division and the use of machinery, cheaper things are turned out. Even poor persons can buy them. Standard of living improves.
(vii) Economic in the use of tools.
It is not necessary to provide each worker with a complete set of tools. He needs only a few tools for the job he has to do. These tools are kept continuously employed. This is very economical.
(viii) Saving in time
The worker has no longer to move from one process to another. He is employed on the same process. He therefore goes on working without loss of time.
Demerits of Division of Labor
The demerits of division of labors are the following:
Doing the same work over and again without any change produced mental fatigue. Work becomes joyless and monotonous. There is no pleasure in the job. The worker cannot be expected to take any interest. The quality of work suffers.
(ii) Kills the creative instinct
Since many men contribute to the making of an article, none can say that he has made it. His creative instinct is not satisfied. The work gives him no pride and no pleasure, since no worker can claim the product as his own creation.
(iii) Loss of skill
The worker deteriorates in the technical skill. Instead the making of whole article, he is required just .to repeat a few simple movements. The skill gradually dies out.
(iv) Check mobility
The worker is doing only a part of the job. He knows only that much and no more. It may not be easy for him to find exactly the job elsewhere, if he desires a change. (In this way, the workers losses his mobility)
(v) Risk of unemployment
If the worker is dismissed from one factory, he may have to search far and wide before he secures a job in which he has specialized. He may be making only the legs of a chair. It is doubtful if he can get the complete chair. His chance of getting a job elsewhere would be brighter.
(vi) Check development of personality
If a man has been making an eighteenth part of a pin, he becomes an eighteenth part of a man. A narrow sphere of work checks proper physical and mental development of the worker,
(vii) Loss of sense or responsibility
None can be held responsible for bad production because none makes the complete article. When the thing is bad, everybody tries to shift the responsibility to somebody else.
(viii) Evils of factory system
Division of labor gives rise to factory system, which is full of evils. It spoils the beauty of the place all round, leads to exploitation of women and children and removes the personal factor in the production and management.
(ix) Problem of distribution
Under division of labor, many persons contribute to the production of an article. They must receive a due share of the product and it is not easy to determine this share. Thus, the problem
of distribution is made difficult. If the worker makes the article, independently he gets its value and there is no trouble. But division of labor had divided the community into two conflicting groups, i.e. capital and labor. The gap between them is daily growing wider strikes and lock out have become a common occurrence in the present day.
The dependence of one country upon another which is necessary consequence of division of labor, proves dangerous in times of war.