How technology is redefining wages: the effects, even in Italy

For days on some social networks and in all the neoliberal-mainstream media there has been a scandal for the many entrepreneurs who do not find labor (especially seasonal workers, but not only) and criticize the young people who may not accept starvation wages for jobs for many hours and a lot of exploitation. Pay us more and let us work betteris the obvious answer supported by the unions, by the CGIL and by the UIL in particular.

Why obviously companies must also do their partas he reflected Alberto Bombassei, founder and president emeritus of Brembo, the Bergamo-based company that produces brakes for cars around the world, in an interview on July 2, 2022 by Repubblica. In truth, it is more a hope than a reality, in an Italian economy that has for too long gambled its survival on cutting costs – especially labor costs.

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A choice maintained and supported by thirty years neoliberal ideology for which it is necessary getting people to adapt to the needs of production and productivity (i.e. profit) and therefore it is necessary favor the business (through deregulation of the labor market via flexibility, precariousness and contractual wage jungle) and not support demand (wages). An ideological choice that still continues to produce its sinister effects today.

Because we go back to talking about wages

The agenda that Draghi had brought to the meeting with the unions on July 12 – tax cuts on low wages, the extension of collective agreements as an alternative to the introduction of a minimum wage by law, incentives for the welfare of companies, as reported by Il Sole 24 Timer – it was determined not decisive, and above all it did not come off (because it could not and should not have come off, since itessence government), neoliberal ideology. The meeting then ended with a farewell to subsequent meetings and thematic tables, but as summarized by the secretary of CGIL Maurizio Landini, no answers were given to the unions and no figures were made. Then came the political crisis triggered by populism in the government, Draghi resigned and everything ended up in the trash.

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The photograph of Italy taken recently – pre-political crisis – by Istat is merciless and dramatic at the same time. And it highlights how the wage problem is closely linked to the problem of job insecurity that has been pursued for the last thirty years.

What Istat says

In fact, he wrote the Istat 2022 report in its president’s report Gian Carlo Blangiardo in the Chamber of Deputies: “Work that is traditionally defined as standard, i.e. that which is identified in employees a indefinite time and for the self-employed with employees, both with full-time hours, it is decreasing. In 2021, these ways of working affect 6 out of 10 employees. […] Increase the employees’ work a time limited especially with short-term contracts. Almost half of the temps have a job of 6 months or less. Over the years it is part-time employment also increasedwhich in 2021 concerns almost a fifth of those employed and in most cases it is involuntary [cioè imposto dall’impresa al lavoratore]. And it is precisely this form of part-time that has shown the most consistent growth”.

Bringing about the inevitable consequences – inevitable as they are not deliberately opposed by governments, which violates Article 3, second paragraph, of the Constitution. Blangiardo pointed out in the report to Parliament that the spread of working methods that do not correspond to standards has contributed to the deterioration of the general quality of employment, which has also led to lower wages. Indeed, it turns out that ways of participating or not in working life are among the most decisive aspects of the state of poverty. And we remember that, as specified by Blangiardo, absolute poverty in the last ten years has gradually increased, so that in the biennium 2020-2021 it reached the highest values ​​since 2005, including over 5 and a half million people. The subjects have changed, less elderly alone, stable data on elderly couples, growing among couples with children, single parents and other types of families. The families of employees are increasingly involved, the poor among minors and young people have increased.

The relationship between impoverishment and neoliberal policies is thus confirmed for the president of Istat, such as citizenship and emergency income that have allowed, continues Blangiardo, a million people not to be in a state of poverty. That President of INPS, Tridicohe remembered it instead the working poor of today will be the pensioners of tomorrow and also highlights the problem with piracy agreementsthat is, signed between companies and fake unions, but useful for exploiting labor even more, reducing costs, incomes, rights and security.

The impact of technology

Bombassei remembered it, quoted at the beginning: “today thanks to technology the cost of labor affects the total value of the finished product much less than once”. So why not raise wages if the technology allows it? In reality, technology produces – has produced and produces – much more and much differently.

It should also be remembered that technique has in his essence some principles that – if they are not controlled and democratically managed – generate the autopoiesis of the technical system and produce not only a progressive replacement of human work by the work of machines, but above all:

  • acceleration and intensification of work rhythms and cycle times (machines are increasingly faster and impose their speed and organization on men, which they incorporate into themselves as technology and as instrumental / calculating rationality, i.e. the functioning of machines and the profit of capital they become the end of man and machines are no longer means: and in fact the mythical Industry 4.0 is actually the old Taylorism (one best way, standardization, repetition, fragmentation, alienation) plus digital;
  • therefore, the workers are not left alone machine pendant (Marx), but more and more are coming subsumed / hybridized – according to the principle of convergence between machines and humans in megamachines (Anders[1]) – with the machines / i.a. function as machines in the time rhythms of machines;
  • generate one behavioral automation of humans in terms of machines/algorithms and their increasing alienation (mechanism of stimulus algorithm that generates reply Human);
  • thus producing a increase in surplus labour And of its productivity thanks to the technique – and in fact we work and consume (and consumption is actually also work work par excellence) 24 hours a day our productivity grows more and more as wages fall and free work (increase in surplus labor and productivity, but not that measured by statistics, but the real one of ours work and consume in a continuous cycle);
  • everything thank you to new technologies which allowed the breakdown of the old Fordist-Taylorist factory and its transformation into platform allowing the passage from concentrated Fordism-Taylorism between four walls al individualized / diffuse Fordism-Taylorism of outsourced and precarious workers, but still connected/integrated (organized, commanded and monitored/controlled) with the company and exploited by the company, putting them in competition (downward, for the company) with each other. A great advantage for the business system, a great disadvantage for man and society.

And therefore: why raise wages if technology makes it possible to increase productivity and keep it low and, if anything, reduce it further? So much then the system invents Black-Fridays, Amazon, influencers, predictive and companion algorithms and mass debt (buy today, pay later) to support demand – that is, increase the productivity of consumers who must always and in all circumstances consume. Double benefit for the system[2]. Great disadvantage for men and society.

Robots and men

He intervenes in engineering and robotics Martin Ford in his book “The Domain of the Robots. How Artificial Intelligence Will Revolutionize the Economy, Politics and Our Lives,” in which he explains that artificial intelligence “has the potential to create indispensable economic value as we search for a way out of the deep abyss it now finds itself in. our economy. [Ma] a vibrant market economy depends on large numbers of consumers being able to purchase products and services. If these consumers have no job and therefore no income, how will they create the demand necessary to sustain continued economic growth?”[6] – and we have already given some of the answers above.

Ford believes that AI will transform every sector and any new industry in the future is likely to include AI and robots, so much so that it suggests a new sector is becoming a reality, with many more jobs to absorb those who have lost their jobs to automation : “Employees will face a very different kind of transition to fundamentally non-routine work, which may often require attributes such as the ability to build effective relationships with others, perform non-routine analysis or seek creative solutions,” explains Ford. Order. But what we remember is the rhetoric that the techno-capitalist system has been telling for thirty years, regardless of denials (supra, digital Taylorism). But even Ford then has to admit that “the adoption of new technologies means that a role that previously required considerable experience and skill can instead be filled by a low-wage employee with little training or by an independent and replaceable contractor. […]”.

Indeed, as even Ford must admit, since the 1970s workers’ wages have not kept pace with productivity gains: “Nearly all the gains induced by technological progress and productivity improvements have been lost by a relatively small group of people placed in upper brackets of the income distribution.In other words, entrepreneurs, managers, high-profile employees, and investors reap the rewards of progress, while ordinary workers get the crumbs. […] As technology changes or diminishes the value of work, so does a larger portion of the company’s profits captured by the capital”- what has actually been known for some time and on the subject, we refer to the works of Luciano Gallino[3] or by Thomas Piketty[4] or Pierluigi Ciocca[5] or by Antony Atkinson[6]without having to go back to Karl Marx.

Conclusion

For Ford, the challenge will be to find new ways to solve problems such as technological unemployment and rising inequality, while continuing to invest in artificial intelligence and reap the benefits of the technology.

But reading these lines it seems to go back to the propaganda of the nineties and the (false) promises of the time about the benefits of the network, about the endless economic growth that its new/net economy would have produced, about the wealth for all that this would have produced . dripping from the top of capital to the bottom of society, on the less fatigue and more leisure we always wanted thanks to new technologies. The exact opposite has happened, but we still won’t realize it.

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Bibliography

  1. Anders G. (2003), “Man is obsolete”, 2 volumes, Bollati Boringhieri, Turin ↑
  2. On the subject we refer to the fundamental: Lazzarato S. (2012), “The factory of the indebted man. Essay on the Neoliberal Condition”, DeriveApprodi, Rome ↑
  3. Gallino L. 2012, “The class struggle after the class struggle”, Laterza, Rome-Bari ↑
  4. Piketty Th. (2017), “Capital and Inequality”, Bompiani, Florence-Milano ↑
  5. Ciocca P. (2021), “Rich / Poor. The history of inequality”, Einaudi, Torino ↑
  6. Atkinson AB (2015), Inequality. What can be done?”, Cortina Editore, Milan ↑

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