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Trajectory of Jobs: Part 2 -- Amarpreet Bhamra

From the ancient times alongside the medieval ages the trajectory of jobs followed the same narrative till the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. With the advent of factories who hired workers to perform jobs the landscape slowly started altering from the traditional occupation based work to a more machine based work.

A new trend emerged as the workers started to migrate to cities where the factories would be located. In history this would possibly be the first footprints of urbanization which later expanded across the globe. As the factories were largely concentrated in the towns and the cities there was a migration of workforce from the villages to these urban centers. The traditional rural lifestyle started getting shadowed by the urban lifestyle which would impacted and challenged prevailing societal norms.

Another interesting feature was the birth of machines which would churn out finished goods in the factories. The goods would then be transported to the markets where the customers would buy the same for a price. A nascent form of supply chain management took roots aided by newer modes of transportation like the steam engine, cars and trucks as compared to the horse-drawn carriages or carts in the medieval times. The Industrial Revolution also witnessed the rise of banks and industrial financiers.

Factories would operate up to 24 hours a day and six days a week with shifts for workers spanning almost 12 hours on an average. As factories would automate and centralize the processes the role of the workers would undergo a change. For example the machine could produce large quantities of cloth as compared to a weaver doing the same on a handloom.

Engineers, mechanics, factory supervisors, managers, cashiers, tellers, loco pilots, drivers, power loom workers etc. were some of the new jobs which emerged during this period. The division of labour was evident in the form of skilled and unskilled workers. Skilled labour started getting less value as factories pushed ahead with cheap labour and economies of scale. At times the jobs did involve the physical movement of machines however workers did not get any compensation if they got injured.

As compared to the ancient times children were employed in jobs and were rampantly exploited in terms of poor wages and hazardous working conditions in factories. Women also took up jobs in the factories and were largely underpaid when compared to men. A majority of the jobs were in coal mines as coal was the critical input which moved the wheels of the industrial economy. However a large part of the population still held on to the jobs in agriculture and other occupations like carpentry, teaching, masons etc.

The British, French, Spanish and Portuguese expanded the reach of factories by annexing other countries and giving birth to colonialism. To start with these colonies became the source of supply of raw materials to the factories and later adopted the factory model which paved the way for newer jobs though similar to the ones in the colonisers. In India this led to an upheaval in jobs which will be dealt in the later write-ups.

To govern the newer jobs a set of policies or rules for the workers was created and implemented in the factories by the owners. With the evolution of jobs the workforce saw a shift in terms of skills and a divide between the rural and the towns or cities in terms of living. In the next write-up it would be interesting to examine the continuing evolution of jobs as they unfolded with the passage of time.

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