Every production system has a way to assign jobs to citizens. The basic idea is that the kinds of labor “required” by society for an efficient fulfillment of needs don’t necessarily align with those that an unhindered free choice of jobs would afford.
The way this is solved under capitalism is letting labor be a commodity, subject to market forces. Workers earn wages that are determined by the demand for their work and the availability of it. The difference in wages across jobs pushes us towards working jobs we otherwise wouldn’t.
I believe the importance of the job market is underestimated in past Marxist literature. It used to be the case that labor was expendable and interchangeable; the availability of any one kind of labor greatly surpassed demand, making wages just a way to keep the proletariat living and reproducing.
However, with an increase in automation, those jobs have long ago disappeared in developed countries, and new ones are taking their place. Notably, these new jobs increasingly require training, which has the effect of making a worker unsuitable for all but their own specialized job.
As a result, wages are now established mainly by market forces. If an employer can, by virtue of the rest of the economy, offer worse working conditions than minimally required by the workforce, they will. Conversely, if a particular kind of labor is sold for a higher price, the employer will oblige.
As a special case that I’d like to mention, those that are very heavily demanded (e.g. public figures, elite sportsmen…) can get extremely high market prices for their labor. This is a new mechanic that has become more common.
I’d like to discuss how a Socialist country would tackle the problem of job distribution, in a way that hopefully offers better guarantees than a free job market.
Ask this on !firstname.lastname@example.org, you’ll probably get some more answers.
A fundamental aspect of a socialist economy is to ensure that everyone has their needs met. Under socialism, labour and resources are primarily directed towards common benefit. Work should not be seen as a goal of itself under socialism. Instead, the goal should be to minimize required work and to free people to spend their time in a way that’s meaningful to them. When work efficiency is improved through automation, that should translate into increased free time for everyone leading to shorter work days and less work days in the week.
One approach to having a socialist economy is to use a combination of public and cooperative ownership.
Public ownership can be used to provide all the essentials that need to be produced regardless of whether it’s profitable to do so. These include food production, housing, healthcare, education, and other necessities. This constitutes the core economy and these jobs should set a reasonable standard for compensation as well as benefits such as vacation, retirement, and so on.
Meanwhile, private sector can focus on commodity production and creating things that improve quality of life. Cooperative ownership would mean that every company would distribute its profits equitably amongst the workers, and the problem of needing the market to establish the wages doesn’t exist in this scenario. The wages are a direct function of how profitable a particular cooperative is.
The lending by venture capitalists used to spin up companies in a capitalist economy would simply be replaced by the central bank in this scenario.
Thanks for the explanation!
These are things I wonder about and wish I had answers to.