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When production process is divided into different stages,

enabling workers to focus on specific tasks thus increases

overall efficiency, production and economic growth.
When individuals specialise and cooperate with each other to
perform specific tasks and roles, it is termed as Division of
A large amount of labour and longer training period was saved,
leading to growth of production/output, trade and eventually
It also generally increases productivity.
Historically, it is associated with growth of capitalism and
industrialisation and rise in wealth of nations.
Division of labour refers to the allocation of tasks to individuals
or organisations as per their skills and equipments.
One of the earliest proponents was Plato who described it in his
Republic that origin of state lies in natural inequality of human
beings which is embodied in division of labour. He recognises
its economic and political benefits.
Medieval scholar Ibe Khadun (14th C), too emphasized the
importance of division of labour in the production.
Sir William Petty was first modern writer to take note of division
of labour, sharing its importance in Dutch Shipbuilding.
Perhaps the most prominent advocate of it was Adam Smith,
the famous economic thinker. Division of labour led to
qualitative increase in productivity and was dynamic engine in
economic progress.
The specialisation and concentration of workers on their single
subtasks often leads to greater skills and productivity.
On the other hand division of labour can often lead to
corruption and degeneration of people unless Government

takes pam to prevent it. It materialises man more than

As for Karl Marx, increasing division of labour leads to
specialisation, leading to poorer overall skills, lack of
enthusiasm for work and
alienation. It also creates less
skilled workforce as work is repetitive, so less training is
needed, so workers are less skilled.
Henry Thoreau, criticised division of labour, as it disconnects
people from society and nature.
Emily Durkheim, like Adam Smith, as it positively correlates
with society advancement, productivity and goes further to add
that it applies to all organisms. He considered it a Natural Law
and fosters social solidarity organic solidarity prevails in
advanced societies while mechanical solidarity typifies less
developed ones.
As for Ludwig Mises, Austrian economist, economic growth
accruing out of division of labour far outweighs the costs and
one can achieve balanced development within capitalism.
Global division of labour (as per ILO) in 1990s show that 15%
worked in Industries, 33% in service sector and 40% in
However, in 2007, services sector surpassed agriculture for the
first time in human history, thus shows that division of labour
led to specialisation, providing more and better services to
growing and demanding population.
Division of labour to a great extent is inevitable, simply
because no one can do all tasks at once. However,
advancement and use of new technology has made it easier for
fewer employees to accomplish a variety of tasks and enhance
In general, in any economy, the generation of wealth, with least
input, will be adopted.

As per Adam Smith, it is the extent of market that defines/limits
division of labour reduction in barriers leads to increase in
division of labour, and drive economic growth.
Division of labour, thereto specialisation, so as to repeatedly do
a task, results in demotivation due to boredom and alienation
which can lead to less production/growth.
Classical political economists as Adam Smith and David
Richards, raised issue of productive and unproductive labour
which influences nations wealth. As human labour is source of
wealth and unproductive labour, limits it.
Eg. Cleaning, record keeping, domestic servants, soldiers etc.
though necessary, dont seem productive in sense of increasing
wealth of nation.
Part of population, consumed wealth but didnt create it so to
maximise growth/wealth, unproductive costs to be minimised
and productive labour to be maximised.
This concept was later rejected in neoclassical economics, as
largely arbitrary All the factors of production viz land, labour
and capital create wealth and are all productive.
Marx regarded land and labours as the source of all wealth and
distinguished between natural and human wealth.
In his theories of Surplus value a labour which adds to value
of capital or results in capital accumulation is productive. And
division of labour is modified to make more and more labour
productive, for eg. through marketization and privatisation.
However, it is an evolving process. In division of labour of
modern advanced societies, unproductive functions of work in
classical sense, occupy a very large part of labour eg. in USA,
from labour data, facilitating exchange and financial claims
alone is main activity of 20 million workers; legal staff, police
security personnel etc. number 5 million.

However, with Globalisation, there has emerged a new

international division of labour there is shift of production
geographically as it is no longer confined to national
Now in the so called developing economies, as they merge
with world economy, more production/wealth takes place.
So the division of labour which results closely follows N-S socioeconomic and political divide wherein North with 25% of world
population, controls 80% of world income, while South, with
75% of population, has access to 20% of income.