Computers and employment

Before the industrial revolution nearly everyone worked in agriculture. Communication was by word of mouth or paper. When the industrial revolution came, life became more complicated. People started to work in factories and the factories needed offices to deal with administration. The amount of paperwork needed to trade started to increase. As time went on, technology was used to develop machines such as the typewriter and telephone and eventually, the computer. We are now in an ‘information age’ and our society is very dependant on information storage and communication.

However, people are generally fearful and distrustful of change. Change that involve new and complex technologies are especially stressful, particularly to older and less educated workers. They are fearful of losing their jobs, of losing control to machines, and of becoming useless. In this report we will look at the wide issues that are related with the computer world on the day-to-day life of employment. Questions to be addressed here includ. Before the industrial revolution, 90% of workers were employed in agriculture.

Industrialisation brought about a major shift in the workforce from agriculture to industry. Today there is less than 10% of the population working in agriculture. We are currently going through the computer revolution (I. e. the introduction of computers is changing the way we live and work). It may be that today, with the use of computers on such a large scale, we are going through a period of adjustment. In a few years time the patterns of employment may have settled as young people with new skills get into the jobs market.

The introduction of computers into industry has caused changes to the way people work and types of jobs. Many traditional jobs have disappeared, causing some people hardship, distress and increasing unemployment. While for other people computers have created a new adventure, new jobs and new opportunities. In the early days experts had very different views and opinions on what would happen in the future the changes have not been as drastic as some people forecast: “Unemployment in the UK will rise to 25% by 1990” (The Times)

“Employment as we know it will be down to 10% in 30 years time” (Kevin Seedy) However none of these have come true. In the 1950’s and 1960’s when computerisation was just beginning, computers were used to replace clerical (for example office jobs) and routine manual tasks (such as copy typists, and some accounts work). Many other clerical jobs have disappeared since then. Perhaps the starkest illustration has been in the banking industry: Clerical staff used to prepare customers bank statements. These are now automatically printed and sent to customers with little or no input from staff.

Counter staff counted out cash for customers making withdrawals. Although this method of withdrawal is still present in banks, the traditional method has been replaced with the introduction of ATMs (automated teller machines), where cash can be withdrawn using a cash card (provided by the bank) allowing individuals to withdraw money from thousands of cashpoint machines all over the country. Payroll clerks prepared payslips for thousands of employees. Many companies now have computerised payroll systems that automatically transfer money directly into the employees’ bank accounts.

Furthermore, as well as reducing the counter staff, they have used the computer to unify the decision making process for offering loans and other services to customers. This has eliminated the much of the discretion that bank managers had in the past. As a consequence the traditional bank manager is gone, replaced by what would have been a more junior member of the staff and who is now concerned mainly with the day to day management of the operation of the branch office rather than dealing with the customers and their accounts. There has also been a growth in the use of credit cards and debit cards to handle payment.

This has been greatly aided by the introduction of the retailer transaction system that allow a retailer to handle a purchase and pass it directly through to the card company system for immediate processing. This costs the retailer a percentage of the transaction, but fewer security risks and ease of handling compensate for this because money goes directly from one account to another. The credit card and debit card are moving society to an increasing cash-less basis. This is reducing the amount of cash the retailers have to deal with and therefore the number of shop and banking and security staff needed to process it.

Banks were very careful about dealing with their employees whose jobs disappeared. Resignations and retirements reduced the numbers and most of the remainder were re-trained but some redundancies had to occur. Some low-level posts, such as cashiers, were changed to include such tasks as dealing with post, typing and answering customer’s questions. The banks have been amongst the best at dealing fairly with their employees – and this, along with the computerisation has lead to an enormous increase in banking business over the last 20 years.

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