Division of Labour

Division of Labour

Division of labour involves breaking down the production process into separate tasks and assigning each task to a person or a group. In 1776, Adam Smith, a renowned economist, described how the division of labour could improve workers’ productivity in a pin-making factory in his book titled “An enquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations.” He maintained that if an individual handled all the 18 stages involved in pin-making, he would produce only 20 pins per day. But if the tasks were shared among 10 workers, a total product of 48000 would be made each day. 

Merits of the application of division of labour

It increases productivity
A worker becomes more skillful by performing a particular task repeatedly. Output per worker, as a result, increases. This cannot be achieved if one worker carries out all the tasks alone. Increased productivity of the individual workers will increase the production or total output of the business.  Besides, with the application of division of labour, more people are engaged which will make output surpass what a single person can achieve. 

It creates jobs
Splitting the production process into distinct activities requires more people to handle all the tasks created.  Consequently, the business hires more workers, thereby reducing unemployment.  The crime rate will decrease as a result of the reduction in the unemployment rate. A crime-free country encourages investment.

It is not time-consuming
Each worker specialises in one task and time is not wasted moving from one task to another. The time that would have been spent on changing tools each time a worker is moving to another task or production stage is saved. This contributes to the speeding up of the production process. The worker’s wellbeing is promoted because he is less fatigued and has more leisure time.

It encourages specialisation
Each worker specialises in a task or a limited amount of tasks. The use of specialists improves the quality of work. Better quality products increase brand preference and loyalty. Therefore, the sales revenue of the business increases. 

It boosts the morale of workers
The best person is chosen for each task as workers are assigned tasks that they are most suited for. This improves motivation and productivity. 

It facilitates the use of machines
The use of more machines is made possible by the application of division of labour. As a result of assigning machines to tasks, output per machine used at each stage rises. This is why the division of labour leads to an increase in total output. 

It lowers the unit cost
Increased productivity reduces the cost per unit as the cost of inputs is covered by large output. This results in higher business profitability. The benefit may be passed on to the consumers in form of lower prices. 

It reduces the cost of training
Workers do not need the training to handle a lot of tasks or activities; they are only trained on a particular task or a few tasks. Without the application of division of labour, workers have to be trained on many tasks which they perform on a day-to-day basis. Thus, it is cheaper for the business to train its workers if the division of labour is used than if it is not employed.

It raises product quality
Repetition of a task by a specialist leads to mastery of the activity and fewer mistakes. The quality of the product becomes better as workers learn by performing the same tasks over and over.

Demerits of the application of division of labour

Repetitive work is boring
Performing the same task continuously leads to boredom. Boredom dampens morale and demotivates the workers. Output per worker or productivity nosedives the longer a worker continues to perform the same task.

Occupational immobility of labour
A worker finds it hard to change his occupation if the need arises. This is because he has the skill to perform a specific task and nothing more. If there is a loss of job the worker has to wait until a job that requires the same kind of skill becomes available.  For example, many workers that work in the primary sector will be structurally unemployed when the tertiary sector begins to expand. This is because they will find it difficult transferring their skills.

Increased interdependence
Increased interdependence among the workers could cause a stoppage in the production process if a worker is unavailable due to illness or death. For a complete product to be made many specialists have to be involved; the absence of one of them will halt the production process.

Breakdown of machine may stop production
Division of labour encourages the mechanisation of the production process. The breakdown of machines will stop production. In addition, mechanisation has reduced the number of available jobs.

Decline in craftsmanship
Workers become mere attendants of machines and each handle a part of the production process. No single individual can produce a whole product because each person specialises in different areas. Many people are required for a completed product.

There is no variety/customisation
Standardised products are produced on a large scale. So there is no customisation or production to meet the customer’s specific requirements.

Limitations of the division of labour
Level of demand 
Division of labour is only suitable when demand is high because it will increase output. If there is a low demand for a company’s product, there is no need for division of labour because it will amount to tying up capital in too much inventory.  

Nature of the product
The application of division of labour is only possible if the work can be divided into different tasks or stages. But it is not all jobs that can be split into separate tasks. For example, driving cannot be split into tasks to be assigned to many people at a time. 

Availability of workers
The availability of specialists for different tasks/stages is required for the division of labour to work. Every aspect of production must be performed by a person with the required skill. Therefore, the non-availability of skillful personnel makes it difficult to practise division of labour.

Lack of finance is a hinderance to the successful adoption of the division of labour by a business as it has to remunerate all the people involved in production. 

Technology makes division of labour possible because machines are used at different stages to speed up production and achieve large output