What is the Division of Labor?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2019
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A division of labor is a strategy that makes it possible to break down the steps or tasks necessary to complete a project, then assigning those tasks to individuals who specialize in that type of labor or work. This model is utilized in many different types of businesses, creating opportunities for people who excel at tasks calling for specific skills to secure gainful employment. Businesses also benefit from a division of labor, since the process helps to ensure each step in a process is completed properly and in a timely manner.

One of the main advantages to a proper division of labor is that essential work can be completed with a higher rate of efficiency. This in turn can increase the production output of a facility, and enhance the opportunity for the business to realize a profit. In contrast, a business that does not develop an equitable process of assigning tasks to various employees is unlikely to achieve the same levels of productivity, and thus will not have the same potential for increasing the bottom line of the operation.


A simple example of an efficient division of labor can be seen in the local supermarket. In settings where the checker or cashier does not have to be concerned with bagging groceries, he or she can focus on the tasks of scanning each item, totaling the bill for the customer, and processing the customer’s payment. While the checker is handling these tasks, an employee known as a bagger is preparing the purchases for transport out of the store, usually by placing the items in paper or plastic bags, and depositing them into the customer’s shopping cart. This model allows the checker to begin the checkout process with the next customer sooner, thus increasing productivity. As a bonus, customers often prefer grocers that use this division of labor, since it means less time spent waiting in a line to pay for purchases.

The idea of using an assembly line in mass production also requires a well-planned division of labor. By arranging the line so that essential tasks are addressed as the goods move through the process, it is possible to train employees to manage each step with a greater level of efficiency. The end result is the ability to produce more finished goods during the work period, which in turn helps to decrease the expense associated with each unit produced. This means higher profits on each unit sold, and an increase in the financial stability of the business.


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