One Finite Planet

Exploring The Roles Of Employment In Society.

First Published:

Table of Contents

This is an an examination of the roles of employment in society. This a reference page as background to deeper explorations on the impact or robotics, the arguments for a 'living wage' or basic income, and other topics.

The Roles of Employment.

Currently, employment plays three roles in society:

  1. Wealth creation.
  2. Wealth distribution.
  3. Personal fulfilment.

Discussions on the ‘ageing population (myth)’, proposals for a living wage and ‘robots’ all consider the the roles of employment.  This page simply provides a reference for those topics.

The Roles:

Wealth Creation.

This is the creation or obtaining of things of value, and addition of further value to things that already have value. People doing work creates the wealth of our society.  Farmers are need to grow food, miners to obtain the raw materials, factory workers to produce manufactured goods, doctors and nurses to provide health care and teachers to provide education, actors to entertain etc.  All the things that we as individuals consume, are produced by people in employment.  Without someone to do the work, there would be no wealth.  In some countries (e.g. oil rich countries) huge wealth has been realised with very little labour, and in low cost labour countries, it can seem to require a high amount of labour for very little wealth.

Wealth Distribution.

For most people, the only path to gain a share of wealth is to exchange their labour for some share of wealth  (or money which they can exchange for true wealth).  If there is no employment available, the may be a social service net, or there may be no way to obtain even the basic commodities to stay alive.   If a country has  sufficient total wealth for all citizens, then employment is the major mechanism for distribution of the wealth throughout the population.

Personal Fulfilment.

There is a third role of employment beyond the economic roles, the addition of a sense of purpose and being able to contribute to society.

A 2014 survey conducted by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found that 12.4% of unemployed Americans suffer from depression compared to 5.6% of those who work full time. For those who have been without a job for a long period of time (“long-term unemployment” is regarded as being without a job for 27 weeks or more), the rate of depression jumps to 18% or nearly one in five.

The Link Between Employment and Self Esteem

What Do I Mean by ‘Wealth’?

Merriam-Webster lists 3 current use definitions for ‘wealth’:

  1. abundance of valuable material possessions or resources
  2. abundant supply PROFUSION
    • a) all property that has a money value or an exchangeable value
    • b) all material objects that have economic utility
      • especially the stock of useful goods having economic value in existence at any one time

If find having a single word for ‘material possessions or resources’, extremely helpful so this use of the term ‘wealth’ is my preference.

To avoid confusion, anytime I am referring to ‘an abundance of ‘wealth’, I use the term ‘wealthy‘.

Yes, the Wikipedia page on ‘wealth’ starts by stating wealth is ‘the abundance of valuable resources or valuable material possessions’, but then includes a graph of the entire world showing the ‘wealth’ of every country, clearly using the term as I do, since many countries can hardly be described as having ‘an abundance‘ of what they are describing, yet on the graph, every country has some degree of ‘wealth’.

The Wikipedia page does also state further down:

At the most general level, economists may define wealth as “anything of value” that captures both the subjective nature of the idea and the idea that it is not a fixed or static concept.

Wikipedia.

Whilst I worry about agreeing with economists, I find this “economists may define” definition more useful.

Comment?