Wage labour

Wage labour

Wage labour is the socioeconomic relationship between a worker and an employer in which the worker sells their labour under a contract (employment), and the employer buys it, often in a labour market. [Deakin, Simon; Wilkinson, Frank. " [http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0198152817 The Law of the Labour Market] ", Oxford University Press, 2005] Request quotation|date=February 2007 The products of labour become the employer's property. A wage labourer is a person whose primary means of income is to sell labour in this way.

Wage labour has existed in one form or another for thousands of years in many different kinds of societies, though it is most prevalent in capitalist systems.

The phrase is also sometimes used to mean the labour done for an employer in exchange for a wage.

The most common form of wage labour currently is a contract in which a free worker sells his labour for a predetermined time (e.g. a few months or a year), in return for a money-wage or salary.Fact|date=September 2008 However, wage labour takes many more different forms, and many different kinds of contracts and forms of remuneration are possible. Economic history shows a great variety of ways in which labour is traded and exchanged. The differences show up in the form of:

*"employment status": a worker could be employed full-time, part-time, or on a casual basis. He could be employed for example temporarily for a specific project only, or on a permanent basis. Part-time wage labour could combine with part-time self-employment. The worker could be employed also as an apprentice.
*"civil (legal) status": the worker could for example be a free citizen, an indentured labourer, the subject of forced labour (including some prison or army labour); a worker could be assigned by the political authorities to a task, he could be a semi-slave or a serf bound to the land who is hired out part of the time. So the labour might be performed on a more or less voluntary basis, or on a more or less involuntary basis, in which there are many gradations.
*"method of payment (remuneration or compensation)". The work done could be paid "in cash" (a money-wage) or "in kind" (through receiving goods and/or services), or in the form of "piece rates" where the wage is directly dependent on how much the worker produces, in terms of goods and services. In some cases, the worker might be paid in the form of credit used to buy goods and services, or in the form of stock options or shares in an enterprise.
*"method of hiring": the worker might engage in a labour-contract on his own initiative, or he might hire out his labour as part of a group. But he may also hire out his labour via an intermediary (such as an employment agency) to a third party. In this case, he is paid by the intermediary, but works for a third party which pays the intermediary. In some cases, labour is subcontracted several times, with several intermediaries. Another possibility is that the worker is assigned or posted to a job by a political authority, or that an agency hires out a worker to an enterprise "together" with means of production.

Critique of wage labour

Wage labour is often criticized as "wage slavery" by socialists and most anarchists. They see wage labour as a major, if not defining, aspect of hierarchical industrial systems. In Marxist terminology, wage labour is defined as "the mode of production where the worker sells their labour power as a commodity", [Marx, Karl. "Wage Labour and Capital"] (and a wage labourer is one who sells their labour power.)

Most criticism focuses on the argument that under wage labour, exploitation occurs. The employer who buys this labour power, owns the labour process and can sell the products to make profit. On the other hand, the worker sells their creative energy and their liberty for a given period, and are alienated from their own labour, as well as its products.

Opponents of capitalism compare wage labour to slavery (see wage slavery). For example, Karl Marx said "The slave, together with his labour-power, was sold to his owner once for all... The [wage] labourer, on the other hand, sells his very self, and that by fractions... He [belongs] to the capitalist class; and it is for him... to find a buyer in this capitalist class."


ee also

*Capitalist mode of production
*Compensation of employees
*Labour (economics)
*Marx's theory of alienation
*Marxian economics
*Reserve army of labour
*Rate of exploitation
*Unfree labour
*Working poor
*Child Labor
*Wage slavery

External links

* [http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1847/wage-labour/ Wage Labour and Capital] - Karl Marx, 1847
*cite book | first = Richard | last = Barbrook | | year = 2006 | title = The Class of the New | edition = paperback | publisher = OpenMute | location = London | id = 0-9550664-7-6 | url = http://www.theclassofthenew.net
* [http://laborfair.com/resources.php LaborFair Resources] - Link to Fair Labor Practices

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