"labour share" and worker exploitation

June 2022 Forums General discussion "labour share" and worker exploitation

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    I am trying to gather empirical evidence of the extent of  exploitation in capitalism (in the Marxian sense to signify to signify unpaid or surplus  labour)


    Here is an  example – according to Bonnie Kavoussi in an article published in 2012 entitled the “Average Cost Of A Factory Worker In The U.S., China And Germany”, data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that U.S. factory workers produce on average $73.45 per hour in output whilst the average hourly wage these workers receive is only $23.32 (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/average-cost-factory-worker_n_1327413). In other words, approximately two thirds of the added value of what these workers produce they do not receive payment for.


    Do people here have other examples?


    There is also an indicator called “labour share”  of national income.  This is generally higher than the approximate figure of  one 33 percent relating to US manufacturing workers mentioned above – more like 50 percent or more.  I am assuming this is because the latter figure, unlike with the manufacturing sector, includes a large number of unproductive workers who do not create surplus value but are financed out of surplus value.   They would not contribute to national income but will still have to be paid for, thus  pushing up the labour share.   Though they do not contribute to national income they are still vital to the effective functioning of capitalism


    There is a useful article here on the subject of labour share:



    It is worth mentioning that  between 1979 and 2018, the gap between productivity growth and the growth in wages of American workers as a whole steadily widened, the former having grown by 69.3 per cent and the latter by a mere 11.6 percent over this period, greatly exacerbating a secular trend towards rising inequality in that country. https://www.epi.org/productivity-pay-gap/


    Not sure whether this might help:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPjrFjAxwlw

    In my opinion when you are trying to measure “labour share” you can either measure it at the point of production, or you can do a total labour share so it configures the amount spent on social security, medical care, education etc so it includes the generalised and true cost of production viz variable capital.

    Best of luck.


    Hi Brian


    Yes I think labour share generally refers to the income of the total labour force which includes both productive and unproductive workers  (the latter being financed out of surplus value).   If you look only at productive workers such as in the case of manufacturing sector I mentioned above,  the difference  between the value of what they receive in wages and the value of what they produce will be significantly higher meaning their percentage share of their value added product will  be significantly lower compared with “labour share”.   This is because some of this surplus value will have to go towards financing unproductive workers who themselves dont produce value but are nevertheless vital to operate capitalism


    I wonder if you or anyone else have specific links that can through light on this matter.  I am trying to put together a thoroughly convincing case based on empirical data to demonstrate the reality of capitalist exploitation.  Capitalist apologists  of course seek to deny this by claiming that an economic surplus is required to purchase non labour inputs such as machinery forgetting that these non labour inputs are only made by the workers in other industries.  The money which the capitalists appropriate through the sale of commodities does not conjure a machine out of thin air.  It has to be produced using labour


    But then capitalism’s apologists seem incapable of being able to see the wood for the trees and so they will only focus on what is going on in a single firm not the wider economy



    • This reply was modified 2 years, 8 months ago by robbo203.
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