If a man working alone undertakes the entire making of an article there is no division of labour. But if the making of this article is broken down into different stages and each stage is undertaken by an individual then there is division of labour. Therefore division of labour can be defined as breaking down of production processes into different stages.
When articles are produced domestically there was no division of labour but with the development of factories there grew the system of dividing production process into stages.
Advantages of Division of Labour
1. It brings about increased productivity. Adam Smith while discussing the merits of this topic cited an example of production of a pin, which is divided into 18 stages. Therefore if a single person is working alone and he is producing pins, he cannot produce more than 20 per day because the processes of producing a pin as he (Adam Smith) explained entailed about 18 stages. So if there is no division of labour it means a person will have to undertake all these processes. But if there is division of labour and an individual undertakes two stages out of the 18 stages, more can be produced. If an individual is to address and envelope 100 letters and also his job is also to stamp the envelope, he alone is performing three operations at a time. It will take him a very long time to complete the job. But if one man addresses the letter, another addresses the envelopes and the third person encloses the letters into the envelope the job will be completed in a shorter time. As a result of dividing the work, the three of them will be able to do the work in less than an hour. This means there is increased in productivity per hour and per man.
2. It increases the skill of workers: In factories where division of labour is used an individual worker performs the same operations day in day out. Repetition therefore increases dexterity of workers. This is borne out by the proven which says “Practice makes perfect”.
3. It brings about a saving of time: The production of any article entails different stages. But if there is no division of labour, time is wasted in change from one operation to another. For example, if a Weaver who has the cadre the thread, also has to spin the thread and at the same time he has to weave, some time will be wasted in changing from spinning to weaving. But if there is division of labour, one man does the weaving process, and the other spins the thread. The time wasted in changing from weaving to spinning could have been saved.
4. Less Fatigue: With the introduction of division of labour workers do not become tired quickly because they work in conjunction with others. Additionally a worker does only an integral part of the production, and so long he does not perform more than a single operation, he does an of become tired quickly. But if the worker performs too many operations, in due course he becomes tired.
5. It makes possible the use of machinery: With the introduction of division of labour the extent to which machine could be used increased. It makes possible mass-production. We must realise that human labour could be used without division of labour but it is difficult to introduce the use of machine without division of labour.
With all the advantages, one cannot overlook it disadvantage. Although it increases output, this is done at some coat. Briefly, the disadvantage of Division of labour can be summarized thus:
1. Work becomes monotonous: Where division of labour is applied; a worker performs the Dame operation everyday and everytime, and human beings, being what they are, become tired and the work becomes dull as a result of repetition. But one must emphasize on this point too much for some workers especially for girls, like routine work everytime, this enables them to gossip and chat with each other.
2. It brings about the decline of craftsmanship: With division of Labour a worker does not produce a complete article, he only produces a fractional part. His skill in the process of the production is not so much required, Because it is the machine that puts into shape the articles he helps to produce. The main duty of the worker is to tend the machine. Hence workers become tenderer of machines.
3. It may bring about unemployment: With the introduction of division of labour, work that can be done by hundred workers can now be done by about 50 workers. It then means that the remaining fifty will lose their jobs. In addition, division of labour makes workers to become specialist in a particular job. It then becomes difficult for a worker to leave the job in which he has been specialized: he may find it difficult to find another place where he may fit in adequately.
Extent of Division of Labour
Division of labour necessitate exchange. As a result of it people begin to specialise in doing things. If you are a farmer, you cannot at the same time be a carpenter and if you are a carpenter you cannot be a tailor. Exchange therefore becomes necessary as a result of specialization. The teacher needs food which is produced by the farmer and the farmer’s son needs education which is provided by the teacher. Exchange of goods for goods is what is known as “Barter”. This is a very clumsy way of exchange. Therefore a means of exchange, had to be devised.
The principle of comparative advantage says that the individual and the entire community will gain if each man specializes in the field where his comparative advantage is higher than those of the others.
A lawyer maybe a good painter, but it pays him to be a lawyer than to be a painter. Practice of law fetches him money more than painting. Therefore he has to specialize in law. A teacher may be good at gardener, but it pays him to specialize in the field in the field in which our comparative advantage is highest.
This is what happens in international trade, countries have to specialize in the production of commodities where they have high comparative advantages.
Division of labour brings about mass production and increased output. But one cannot continue to produce goods which are not demanded. Therefore the extent of the market limits division of labour, that is, it limit extent to which we can specialize. If the market is small, specialization cannot be carried to a great extent. But if the market is wide, then specialization will not be limited so long there are ready markets for the goods produced.