Technology and Society

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Sociology
Section A:

1. Evidence from Canada (and elsewhere) suggests that new computer-based information technologies are benefiting some workers while others may be losing out. Who may be losing and who may winning and in what ways? Why? Address these questions using the course literature

Evidence from Canada (and elsewhere) suggests that new computer-based information technologies are benefitting some workers while others may be losing out. Technology and work have always been related, with the former affecting the latter. As technology has developed, it has changed the nature of work. This is what happened at the dawn of the industrial era when the factory system made the means of production more efficient and effective, and it is still true today. What is different is that we seem to have emerged from the ‘industrial era’, and we are now in what Adams and Demaiter (2008) call the “new economy”. This is an economy that has shifted to a knowledge economy, and therefore it has forced workers to adapt to these new circumstances.

Simply stated, this “new economy” has “reduced the need for human labor in many industries, a process that will continue in the years to come.” (Volti, 2006, p. 155). Over the last few decades, and especially with the advent of the internet and globalization, the nature of the Canadian economy has shifted in the direction of the service sector, meaning that more and more jobs are becoming service –sector jobs: “The desire for services shows no signs of abating, and this sector will generate many future jobs.” (Volti, 2006, p. 155).

Manufacturing has been shifted to other areas of the world, and computers have become the tool through which services are facilitated. This emphasis on computer technology has been referred to as the post-industrial economy. The post-industrial economy is a vibrant one that has lots of employment opportunity, but the ones who are going to be benefitting from these opportunities are those who are suited for this “new economy”. There are going to be many people who will struggle to try and find jobs in that were well-suited for the old, industrial economy, and these are the people who will be lose out. For example, our automobile factories are increasingly replacing human labour with computer technology (machines), and therefore there will continue to be fewer human jobs in manufacturing sectors like this, but there will be an increasing demand for the services required to implement these machines. Another example are traditional retail outlets; book stores are closing, but companies like Amazon are continually hiring IT professionals to help them in the ‘service’ of selling books (and other things). (Volti,2006).

Technology has worked to reshape the economy, and create a new division of labour that benefits some and causes others to lose out. In the industrial era, unskilled and low-educated individuals could still make a decent middle-class living by working in industry and manufacturing. For example, to use the same one as before, an unskilled person could go to work in a car factory, and even though they were uneducated, they could learn the skills they needed on the job, and they provided significant value to their employers, and they got paid well for their efforts. But with these types of jobs disappearing there is less demand for uneducated workers. As Volti (2006, p. 157) says, “One group that has seen a reduction in wages relative to the rest of the labor force is composed of workers with only a high school education or less.”

The effect that this is having on these workers who are “losing out” is significant. One of the other ways that they are losing out is through a growing income gap. Technological change has contributed to a growing income gap “that separates the top stratum of the population from everybody else.” (Volti, 2006, p. 157). This is a particularly inconvenient truth for older workers who feel that they...
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