Recently, the business press has contained articles and books about the abundance of products and services being produced by our economy. See Abundance-The Future is Better than you Think, by Peter H. Diamandis & Steven Kotler (2012).
Some commentators attribute some economic malaise to “too much of everything”. Examples of abundance are the over supply of commodities such as crude oil. Scott Barlow in the Globe and Mail on February 2, 2016 stated that there are “too many mutual funds, television channels, cereal brands, auto companies, clothing brands, taxis, department stores ….”. Barlow added that “technology increases efficiencies and reduces the need for labour”.
The application of technology to farming is a surprising example. In the 1870s in North America over 75% of the population was employed in agriculture. Today less than 2% of the North American population is directly employed in agriculture. In China the percentage of the population employed in agriculture is 30%.
Technology has resulted in dramatic changes in the publishing industry. There has been a dramatic decrease in the demand by lawyers and judges for print books, mainly due to availability of free digital judicial decisions. The use of books has also declined at law schools. A law professor recently told me that his law school has shredded some case law books.
The larger problem for our society is how do persons entering the labour force decide and find employment. It is surprising that most of those persons previously employed in agriculture did find employment. Rarely does the business press write about the employment rate, the proportion of working age Canadians who have a job. Consider that the employment rate was 55% in 1950 and today that rate in Canada is over 72% (no nation has an employment rate that exceeds 80% and the rate in the USA is 68%). Employment rates can fluctuate in the short term due to the business cycle (periods of expansion and recession).
The abundance of products and services results in part from the division of labour and the Industrial Revolution.
CNNMoney reported on February 10, 2016 that “there were 5.6 million job openings in the USA in December 2015”.