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Division of Labor:


Meaning and Definition:


"By division of labor is meant the specialization, of work. It refers to splitting up of a task into a number of processes and sub-processes and carrying it out by a person or a group of persons who are best fitted for it".


Definition by Adam Smith:


"The division of labor by reducing every man business to some one simple operation and by making this operation the sole employment of his life necessarily increases very much the dexterity of the worker".


Division of labor may be simple, complex, or territorial. When different groups of people specialize in different kinds of works, the division is said to be simple. For example, one man specializes in weaving doth, the other in making shoes, still another in making implements for the agriculturist, etc.


Types and Examples:


Two types are given below:


(1) Complex Division of Labor:


When a particular work is split up into different processes and sub-processes and each process is carried out by a single person or a group of persons, the division of labor is said to be complex. For example, in a needle manufacturing industry, no one specializes in the making of a whole pin. The work is split up into different processes and each worker is assigned a definite part in the whole work.


(2) Territorial Division of Labor:


When a certain locality specializes in the production of a particular commodity, the division of labor is said to be territorial. For instance, Pakistan has specialized in the' manufacturing of sports goods, Bangladesh in the production of Jute goods etc.




The system of division of labor has proved very beneficial to society. The main benefits arising out of division of labor are briefly discussed as below:  


(i) Increase in Productivity. Division of labor helps in bringing about a vast increase in productivity. This fact can be better explained if we quote what Samuelson has said about it:


"Ten persons, however, were found to manufacture among them 48 thousand pins in a day or 4,800 pins per head per day. Individually and acting separately one man could scarcely have manufactured 20, and may not perhaps even more than on a day. The efficiency was due, of course, in consequence of a division and combination of different "operation".    


(ii) Increase in Dexterity and Skill. Division of labor increases dexterity and skill of the workers. When a person continuously works at one task for a longer time, he becomes expert of that task. Quoting from Adam smith's Wealth of Nation:


"The division of labor by reducing every man business to some one simple operation and by making this operation the sole employment of his life necessarily increases very much the dexterity of the worker".


(iii) Division of Labor stimulates Inventions. When a man is doing the same job over and over again, he always keeps in mind as to how the work can be made easier. He sometimes succeeds in inventing easier methods of production.


(iv) Diversity of Employment. Division of labor splits up one work into many parts. With the division of work, the range of occupation increases. This gives opportunity to all types of workers such as young man, women, aged people, children, crippled persons, etc., to get employment.


(v) Economy in the use of Machinery and Tools. When division of labor is introduced in a certain work, there is a continuous use of machinery and tools and they do not remain ideal. For instance if a worker is assigned the job of sewing shirts, he will be all the time in need of sewing machine and not complete set of implements needed for sewing the clothes. 


(vi) Saving in Time and Efforts. If a worker has to learn all the processes of producing a commodity, then the period of apprenticeship will be fairly long. In case, the work is split up into small processes, the task can be specialized in a short period and there can be much economy in time and efforts.  


(vii) Large Scale Production at Cheaper Cost. Another advantage claimed by division of labor is that it makes possible larger production at lesser cost.


(viii) Right man for the Right Job. Division of labor helps in bringing about the right man in the right place. When there are too many jobs, every man tries to get himself absorbed in a work, where he thinks himself to be best fitted. Thus, the chances of putting, square pegs in round holes are minimized.


(ix) Increased in the use of Machinery. As the work is split up into a number of processes, each process of production becomes so simple and easy that it can be easily taken over by machines invented for that particular process. It is in this way, we say, that division of labor leads to extensive use of machinery.




Division of labor is not an unmixed blessing. It gives rise to certain disadvantages also. They are briefly discussed below:


(i) Repetition Increases Monotony. When a worker has to perform the same work over and over again, it creates sense of boredom in him. His individual incentive is curbed. It is in fact, a poor record of a man's whole life never to have made more than 18th part of a pin.


(ii) Loss of Responsibility. Where a particular commodity is the Joint product of a number of workers who are generally unknown to each other, they do not feel responsibility of their work. Moreover, the workers do not feel pleasure and pride in it. The creative instinct of the workers thus slackens.


(iii) Risk of Unemployment. If a person specializes in a part of the job and totally depends upon it, then he can always be in danger of unemployment.


(iv) Evils of Factory System. There is no doubt that division of labor involves production on a large scale but the other side of the picture is that it brings over crowdedness, slums, immorality, loss of individual freedom, strained relations of the employer and the employees, etc., along with it. These we all name as the evils of factory system.


(v) Disruption of Family Life. Another evil which is associated with division of labor is that it bring disruption, in family life. As division of labor provides opportunities for employment to women and children, so, it results in the break up of the family life.




If we carefully weigh the disadvantages associated with division of labor against its manifold advantages, we will easily find that the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Most of the disadvantages can be removed and minimized as they are actually removed and mitigated in advanced countries.

Relevant Articles:

Economic Resources
Land as a Factor of Production

Labor as a Factor of Production

Entrepreneur as a Factor of Production
Division of Labor
Mobility of Labor
Capital as Factor of Production
Capital Formation

Capital Market


Principles and Theories of Micro Economics
Definition and Explanation of Economics
Theory of Consumer Behavior
Indifference Curve Analysis of Consumer's Equilibrium
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Elasticity of Demand
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Equilibrium of Demand and Supply
Economic Resources
Scale of Production
Laws of Returns
Production Function
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Development and Planning Economics
Introduction to Development Economics
Features of Developing Countries
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