Computers Reading 8 – Work and Workplace
Sare Baase, Work (Reserve)
Fears and Questions
• Introduction of computers into the workplace generated many fears. Many social
critics, social scientists, politicians, unions, and activists thought computers
would be highly threatening.
Foresaw mass unemployment due to increased efficiency
Workers having to acquire computer skills is too heavy a burden
Need for increased technical training and skills would widen the earning gap
between those who obtain the new skills and those who do not.
Saw telecommuting as bad for workers and society.
Oppose offshoring, it will eliminate many jobs here.
• Computers and communications networks are causing changes in the size of
business and the number of people who are self-employed.
• Telecommuting Working at a distance from the traditional company office or factory,
connected by computers and telecommunications devices.
The Impact on Employment
• Since start of Industrial Revolution, there has been a constant fear that
technology has and will generate mass unemployment.
• Reduction or human labour and time required to produce goods and services are
one of the horrific consequences of computers and automation. This assumption
was right for the first few decades of computer use.
• # of bank tellers down from 1983-1993. Electronic calculators replaced many old
products as well as the people who operated and sold them as a living. As
technology comes out and replaces old methods, the jobs of people who created,
operated, and sold those products for a living were goneIncreased
• Large-scale loss of jobs from companies downsizing. Shopping online reduced
needs for sales clerks, record companies going out of business from pirating.
• Computers eliminate jobs. By making tasks more efficient, computers reduce the
# of workers required to complete tasks. Goals of technology include a reduction November-22-12
in the resources needed to accomplish a result and an increase in productivity
and standard of living.
• Sucessful technology eliminates some jobs, but creates others. E.g. when the
sewing machine came out, seamstress jobs were lost, but clothes prices went
down, demand went up, and thousands of new jobs were created.
• Computers created new products and services, whole new industries, and
millions of jobs. Countless new products based on computer technology created
jobs. E.g. DVD players, iPods, medical devices, 3D printers, navigation systems,
cell phones, etc.
Created new jobs in design, marketing, manufacture, sales, customer service,
repair, and maintenance. Also create jobs such as receptionists, janitors, and
• In the past, music was available only to the powerful or rich, because they could
hire musicians or orchestras, but now music is readily available to everyone
• Many new jobs created by computer technology are ones not imagined or
Technology, Economic Factors, and Employment
• New technologies reduce employment in specific areas in the short term, but it is
obvious that computer technology did not cause mass unemployment. Many
other factors that caused this such as demographics, business cycles, and
But are we Earning Less?
• Average hourly pay of manufacturing workers seem to decline as much as 10%
after 1970Indication that the value of human work is declining as computers take
over tasks people used to do. Others see this as an indication that computers
decreased, not increased, productivity. Economists responded by saying that
while computerization increased, so did measures of real income when people
spend money on leisure activities.
• Since Industrial Revolution, working hours have declined. November-22-12
• While older technologies used to eliminate jobs in specific fields, computers
eliminate jobs in many fields such as automation and even receptionists.
• Computers eliminate jobs that do not require college degrees and create jobs in
the field of computer technicians, which do require a degree. Limits
opportunities for people without a college degree
• Will jobs diverge into 2 distinct groups: high paying jobs for a highly skilled and
highly trained and highly skilled elite, and fewer low-paying jobs for people
without computer skills and advanced education?
• Companies are more willing to hire people without specific skills when they can
train new people quickly and use automated support systems. (318)
• Do automated systems mean fewer jobs for high-skilled workers? Will human
intelligence in employment be devalued?
• Software makes decisions that used to require trained, thinking human beings.
Computers could take over many white-collar jobs.
• Data processing and computer programming were among the first service jobs to
go offshore, many to IndiaLose domestic jobs Pg. 319
• Problems with offshoring: Loss of domestic jobs, difficult to understand foreign
accents in call centers, service personnel not familiar with product you are calling
• Even though Computers eliminate many jobs, they also make it a lot easier for us
to get jobs. InternetResearch companies, apply online for specific positions, get
questions answered, monster.ca type sites, etc.
• TelecommutingWhen employees of companies work, but do their work from
home. In some cases, they do not even live in the same city or state as their
Benefits: Reduces costs of running a business, in some cases increases
productivity, more satisfied with job, and more loyal to employers. Also make it
easier to work with clients, customers, and employees in other countries.
Reduces expenses such as gas and work clothes, and reduces amount of time
wasted driving to and from work.
Problems: Some people less productive, since no supervision and get
distracted, lack of social interaction with employees, lack of opportunities of
advancement, more expensive and space-consuming Employee may need to
operate equipment and will need to make space in house for office. November-22-12
• Change in Business StructureImpact of telecommunications