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Marxist Concept of Exploitation and the Contemporary Labour Market Argumentative Essay



The Marxist concept of exploitation argues that the value of an employee’s labour is not similar to the economic value obtained by his employer from the output of the task performed. This creates social and income inequalities in various societies.

Karl Marx advanced the notion that the contemporary labour market creates a dysfunctional society, where the means of capital are in the hands of a few who control access to wealth. This paper agrees with the view that the Marxist concept of exploitation helps us understand the contemporary labour market. The paper will use Gravity Corporation as an example.

Labour as a Factor of Production

Capitalistic market economies do not place a lot of importance on shared benefits between employers and their employees. Employees are considered as assets whose sole purpose is to generate profits. Since accumulation of wealth is the primary motivation of a capitalistic economic system, the value of labour is used as a means to maximise more wealth.

The contemporary labour market is influenced by the exchange value of various commodities and their prices. Other important attributes that measure the real value of employees in a given firm are not given the attention they deserve. This makes it difficult for employees in a firm to uplift their standards of living (Key labour market issues and controversies, 2013, p. 3).

Contemporary labour practices place a higher premium on skilled labour over manual labour. This has led to the standardisation of labour codes which ensure workers understand what they are expected to achieve in specific industries. Many firms have put in place systems that measure the quantity of output attained by workers as they perform their duties.

However, other firms give their workers more freedom to work from their homes through different technological systems that do not require physical supervision. In some firms, workers have to submit periodic reports showing what they have achieved within a particular period. (Labour market restructuring, 2013, p. 6).

Labour Market Stability

The case of stability in the labour market is captured by Marx’s arguments about the relationship between the economic value of labour and its social worth. The social relations that influence production are rarely given consideration because employers place more importance on profits.

Therefore, the quality of a commodity is assessed through the price it commands in the market rather than the social processes which are involved in making it (Labour market restructuring, 2013, p. 7).

The importance of social labour in producing a particular commodity is not given the attention it deserves in the contemporary labour market. As a result, modern labour markets only focus on monetary influences at the expense of other social benefits obtained from labour.

The Marxist concept however, reveals the true situation that non- standard employees face. Their efforts are not highly valued by employers who value full time employees more. Even though they work flexible hours, they do not always get opportunities to work which makes their incomes unstable.

Gravity Corporation has similar work systems where during some months, non standard employees are hired to perform extra duties which full time workers are not able to perform.

These workers are given short time contracts which do not reflect the real sacrifices they make to achieve positive results out of different tasks they do. As a result, they are easily exploited by their employers who control economic systems in areas they are working in (McCall, 2001, p. 79).

McCall (2001) reveals that modern economic systems value predictable routines in production (p. 80). Work shifts condition employees to conform to predictable cycles of production. These cycles of a production enable business firms to serve various market needs without any disruptions. Modern firms are only interested in increasing their productivity to boost their competitiveness.

As a result, workers who fail to attain specific targets at the workplace are pushed harder to improve their performance. This provides perfect conditions for the owners of capital in a given industry to increase their wealth at the expense of labourers who toil hard to increase output. This creates antagonistic relationships between employees and their employers.

Productivity as a Tool for Workplace Assessment

There are several mechanisms which are used by various employers to evaluate workers’ productivity in a firm. Many of these processes are used to measure the quantity and quality of output achieved to ensure an employer gets maximum benefits from different work process in his organisation. However, some of the processes used to measure workplace quality are flawed.

Employees are coerced to conform to different workplace practices because they are economically dependent on their employers. In contemporary labour systems, employers control forces of production and they have more power than their employees. As a result, employees are easily exploited by their employers (Work intensification and labour market insecurity, 2013, p. 6).

Labour markets are mainly controlled by owners of capital who influence various issues and how they take place. As a result, employees’ input in different workplace ideas and systems is not taken seriously as it is supposed to be. Owners of capital in various industries perceive money as a reward for their investments.

They are not interested in its exchange value that allows them to produce more products to serve different market needs. Modern economies look at money as an infinite object which needs to be maximised through the sale of commodities in various markets.

Therefore, modern labour systems are controlled by self- seeking employers who are not willing to cede any control to their employees. (Work intensification and labour market insecurity, 2013, p. 8).

Insecurities in the Labour Market

In the modern labour market, working conditions are exploitative because employers are only interested in increasing productivity. For instance, in Gravity Corporation, employees who fail to attain specific quantitative targets get a lower wage compared to their workmates. Therefore, it is important to note that some of these working practices do not conform to desirable social standards which focus on the welfare of employees.

This is because workers consider their labour as commodities which they trade to their employers to obtain wages and other benefits. Rogers (2000) reveals that workers have to work longer hours to increase the value obtained from various production systems they work in (p. 88). The only benefit a worker gets from the process is a basic wage.

Social relations between employees and their employers are determined through the interests of both parties. Employers control a large share of a society’s wealth and only depend on employees for their labour. This gives employers more control over regional economic systems which makes it easy for them to control their employees.

Employees who have conflicts with their employers have to resort to different methods to have their grievances addressed (Labour representation and employee resistance, 2013, p. 5). Many policy makers implement policies which favour employers at the expense of workers. The rise of the private sector has made it difficult for labour unions to advocate for workers’ rights effectively like before.

Government Interests in Corporate Firms

Many countries have instituted laws that favour business firms to increase their tax bases. This allows an employer to increase the length of the working day to ensure he reaps more benefits from employees working for him. As a result, many governments turn a blind eye to various labour malpractices which are committed by business firms in their operations.

They are more interested in improved economic performance in different industrial sectors to enable them obtain higher tax revenues to finance various forms of government expenditure. This situation is exemplified by the declining power of labour unions which are considered to be disruptive by many governments and corporate firms (Labour representation and employee resistance, 2013, p. 6).

There is abundant labour supply which allows employers to have more control of their workers in different economic systems. Workers are made to feel insecure by their employers who institute different types of policies to make them aware that they can be relieved of their duties if they fail to attain specific expectations. This situation makes employees to be more submissive to their employers (Felstead & Jewson, 1999, p. 5).

In essence, employees have to toil to earn their basic wages because they do not have other viable economic options to turn to. The economic dependence makes employers more superior than employees in the labour market.

Influence of Flexible Working Arrangements

The increase in flexible working arrangements has been used by some observers to argue that employees in modern organisations have equal relationships with their employers. However, modern business enterprises face different issues in industries they operate in. These conditions require them to change their recruiting practices to make sure they are aligned to long term objectives they seek to achieve.

As a result, these firms have to restructure their operations to shield them from potential losses that are associated with hiring a lot of employees on long term contracts. Some employers have put in place institutional structures that make them decide on the period of time employee contracts are going to be enforced (Felstead & Jewson, 1999, p. 6).

Kalleberg (2001) reveals that the increase in workplace flexibility has limited workers’ involvement in crucial decision making processes (p. 481). Many business firms have instituted high performance systems that allow workers to perform their duties in a flexible work environment.

Some organisations have been able to combine both standard and non standard work practices which have made them restructure their human resource practices, without consulting workers.

Many firms have given their internal human resource departments more power to deal with labour related issues. As a result, many employees are assigned duties according to the job description that stipulates what they have been hired to do by their firms.

Impacts of Multitasking and Restructuring of Work Duties

The increased focus on employees who can perform a variety of tasks is detrimental to the careers of many people working in various industries. Some employees are forced to work harder to achieve their employers’ expectations without considering their skills and talents. In some instances, employers are interested in minimising their costs by assigning different unrelated tasks at the workplace to one individual.

Kalleberg (2001) argues that this drains an employee physically and psychologically because he is not allowed to perform tasks that he is skilled in (p. 482). Many workers perform rigorous work procedures which are not beneficial to their professional development.

Some business firms have restructured their internal work systems to improve their performance in the market. Some labour functions have either been merged or replaced by technological equipment to boost efficiency. As a result, the modern labour market system compels workers to increase their skills by doing additional courses to make them more suitable for constant changes at the workplace.

However, this creates difficulties for some employees who are not given more time by their employers to acquire important skills that are related to their specific careers. This reduces job security because employees find it difficult to settle in their workstations (Felstead & Gallie, 2004, p. 1298).

Felstead and Gallie (2004) argue that modern high performance organisations rely more on non standard workers to perform different work responsibilities (p. 1305).

As such, some workers are likely to be involved in decision making processes which affect how they discharge their duties in their respective workstations. Non standard working programs utilise both skilled and non skilled workers. Over the years, there has been an increase in the number of skilled workers who are part time employees in different organisations.

The Impact of Globalisation

There is a lot of competition in many modern economies due to globalisation. Many business firms have been forced to increase their operating capacity to take advantage of opportunities in foreign markets. As a result, the labour market has become more competitive because workers who are able to conform to conditions in different industry environments are given more preference by employers.

Therefore, some workers are forced to forego their social engagements to satisfy expectations of their employers. Green (2001) argues that the modern labour market only focuses on the material benefits that employers accumulate from their capital investments (p. 54)..

Many organisations operate in foreign markets which are different from their own. In Western Europe and North America, good labour practices are strictly enforced by various governments. As a result, many firms have decided to shift their manufacturing operations to other countries in Asia and Latin America.

These firms do not apply labour standards which are enforced in their countries of origin in the new manufacturing zones where their operations are based. Finished goods are then sold in global markets at high prices and this enables multinational corporations to accumulate wealth. Workers are exposed to unfavourable working conditions full of pollution and other hazards that are detrimental to their health (Green, 2001, p. 71).

Work Intensification and Its Effects

The intensification of work in many organisations has harmful effects on employees’ health. An employee that performs repetitive tasks for 12 hours is likely to have difficulties concentrating on his work duties. He may not be able to attain objectives set by his employer due to exhaustion and this may harm his psychological wellbeing.

Intensive work programs carry a lot of risks and workers may make mistakes in their work stations which are detrimental to their own safety and that of other workers (Green, 2001, p. 76). Work intensification programs place a heavy burden on employees. Workers in Gravity Corporation face such challenges because they are expected to extend their working hours to achieve different targets set in the firm.

Many multinational corporations are very powerful, which makes them influence various policies in countries they operate from. As a result, they are involved in lobbying activities to ensure law makers in various countries do not pass laws that are likely to jeopardise their profits in various markets.

They hire lobbyists who prevail upon government officials not to impose labour related regulations that are meant to benefit employees working for them (Green, 2001, p. 78). This makes the modern labour market more exploitative because large firms are not held to account by government officials because they have vested interests in them.

Workplace relations in future will undergo a radical transformation which will affect the way employers relate with their employees in different organisations. There is a shift in labour relations in different industrial settings because industrial unions have been steadily losing their power. This has made more organisations to prefer negotiating with their employees on individual basis.

Collective pressure exerted by trade unions on employers in different industries has reduced. Changes in human resource practices and economic systems have made it difficult for employees and their labour unions to initiate different forms of industrial action. Many of them are not interested in joining trade unions because they feel they do not offer many benefits to their professional lives (Taylor, 2002, p. 3).

Impacts of the Consumerism Culture on the Labour Market

Many governments view a thriving middle class as the perfect benchmark for economic prosperity. However, they are not always keen to introduce policies that redistribute wealth to people in low classes who struggle to eke out a living. Therefore, they are more interested in increasing the level of consumption of various goods and services to increase economic growth.

This has a negative impact on the labour market because manufacturers and other large business owners become consumed by an insatiable desire to sell more products and services in the market. This situation exposes many people to a cycle of dependence because all their earnings are spent on various commodities sold in the market by large firms (Taylor, 2002, p. 8).

The public sector is not a major employer as it used to be in the 1960’s and 1970’s. There is a shift from labour intensive work processes to more technologically driven industrial processes. Many work processes have become more automated which has meant that some industries do not rely on large numbers of workers to perform simple tasks.

However, some of these changes have not brought significant benefits to employees working in different industries. Employers still have the power to make decisions regarding how different functions are performed.. Therefore, labour unions are not able to recruit members in specific industries they are involved in because they have lost the leverage they used to have over large business firms (Taylor, 2002, p. 12).

The number of service firms in the last two decades has increased significantly, which has changed labour practices in different industries. Manufacturing firms do not have the same appeal as they used to have in the past and their influence in different economic systems has reduced. As a result, many firms have altered their internal labour practices to conform to new business conditions they face in their industries.

Employment laws determine the type of engagement each employer has with his employee and this has had affected labour practices in different industries.. Many employees are expected to improve their knowledge on different workplace procedures to make them more effective in their work duties.

Gravity Corporation is facing similar issues because some workers have been requested to undergo new training programs to make them more suitable for different workplace duties (Taylor, 2002, p. 12).

It has also become more difficult to estimate the monetary value of output resulting from different work processes in many organisations. The increase in the number of service firms in various industries has increased the number of economic sectors which register good performance. However, the labour market is still controlled by large investors who invest different forms of capital in various industries.

As a result employees are forced to adapt to new working systems which are not suitable for their professional development. Customer feedback is the main yardstick which business firms use to assess whether their employees are competent in their duties. Some employees are victimised by their employers whenever customers give negative feedback.

Employers are only interested in building strong relationships with their consumers but do not give adequate attention to their employees at the workplace. This shows that in some instances, employees are made to shoulder the blame whenever anything in a firm goes wrong because they are not considered to be valuable by their employers (Thompson & Ackroyd ,1995, p. 617).

Workplace Sabotage

Thompson and Ackroyd (1995) argue that there are recent trends in many organisations where employees engage in undesirable activities (p. 619). This makes it difficult for their organisations to register positive performance in their operations. As a result, some firms have to contend with dishonest and untrustworthy employees who engage in various malpractices that result in heavy losses.

However, some workers feel that their employers do not recognise or appreciate their contributions in making their firms excel in the market. They resort to acts of sabotage and rebellion to address the bad deeds they feel their employers have committed against them.

Workers are devising new methods of dealing with various problems at work which they feel result from their employers’ indifference and insensitivity. Interestingly, acts of pilferage and sabotage are highly individualised because many employees feel that this allows them to carry out revenge missions against their employers without being caught.

Vengeful acts of sabotage by employees which result in heavy losses occur due to poor dispute resolution systems. Many organisations have not invested in effective dispute resolution systems to help them deal with different issues that workers are facing. As a result, workers resort to illegal means to quell the anger they harbour against their organisations.

The contemporary labour system fails to address different issues that are likely to cause conflicts between employees and their employers. This is mainly caused by the failure by business firms to pay attention to various issues which their employees face in their respective workstations (Thompson & Ackroyd, 1995, p. 624). Many employers fail to note the connection between ineffective managerial decisions and employee agitation.

For instance, a similar situation in Gravity Corporation made some employees to damage the company’s property which resulted in major losses. An anonymous letter sent to the CEO revealed that workers were unhappy with the withdrawal of their commuter allowances from their benefits scheme.

Tilly (2006) argues that inequalities experienced in the labour market result from the insatiable desire by business firms to maximise their revenues in different industries they operate in (p. 20). As a result, many employers optimise their production processes to make them more efficient to ensure they keep labour and other recurrent costs low.

This has created inequalities in earnings because workers are likely to do more work without being adequately compensated for their efforts. Workers are always tested by their employers to demonstrate their suitability to changing conditions in the work environment. Employers usually hire workers that demonstrate they are capable of performing their duties diligently at work.

Therefore, many organisations are only interested in profit objectives and do not have the desire to help their employees attain their social welfare goals. This situation influences the way an employer interacts with his employees in an organisation.

Impacts of Empowerment Policies

Socially driven labour policies in various industries do not always achieve the desired results. In many instances, workers who are favoured by new policies that are intended to overcome labour inequalities do not always benefit from them. Some of them do not always get fair treatment from their managers who may be influenced by their own prejudices.

Tilly (2006) argues that black empowerment programs that were implemented in the US did not achieve their intended effect (p. 24). Many African Americans were subjected to different forms of discrimination by their white employers.

He argues that African Americans performing tasks similar to their white counterparts experienced stagnation in their careers even though they had done all they could to make their companies prosperous in industries they were involved in. Therefore, empowerment in labour market has not yielded positive results for employees working in different industry settings.

Some social processes are likely to achieve the desired impact if employers become more interested in sustainable development practices. For instance, appropriate social partnerships between employers and their employees strengthen workplace relations. This motivates employees to work even harder because they experience material and social benefits which uplift their status of living.

In many instances, empowerment programs have not registered positive results because employers are not interested in sharing resources equitably to benefit different communities. This makes them to engage in unfavourable business practices that help them assert their control over different economic systems (Doogan, 2005, p. 70).

Therefore, this makes it difficult for empowerment programs introduced by the government to achieve intended results at the workplace. In various societies, cultural and racial discrimination one of the major forms of exploitative behaviours which business firms use to control their employees. This helps such firms not to take seriously any policies that are intended to improve the welfare of employees working for them.


In conclusion, the Marxist concept of exploitation can be used to understand different modern labour practices in various industries. Many employers do not give a lot of consideration to issues their employees face at the workplace.

Work processes have also become more intense yet many business employers have failed to improve their employees’ welfare. Many workers are forced to perform additional roles which are not related to their expertise without any additional compensation by their employers.


Doogan, K. (2005). Long term employment and the restructuring of the labour market in Europe. Time and Society, 14 (1), 65-87.

Felstead, A. & Gallie, D. (2004). For better or worse? Non standard jobs and high involvement work systems. Human Resource Management, 15 (7), 1293- 1316.

Felstead, A. & Jewson, N. (1999). Global trends in flexible labour. London, UK: Macmillan Business.

Green, F. 2001. It’s been a hard day’s night: The concentration and intensification of work in late twentieth century Britain. Journal of Industrial Relations, 39(1), 53- 80.

Kalleberg, A. (2001). Organizing flexibility: The flexible firm in a new century. British Journal of Industrial Relations, 39(4), 479-504.

Key labour market issues and controversies (2013). Unit 1 Course Material.

Labour market restructuring (2013). Unit 2 Course Material.

Labour representation and employee resistance (2013). Unit 4 Course Material.

McCall, L (2001). Complex inequality: Gender, class and race in the new economy. New York, NY: Routledge.

Rogers, J.K. 2000, Temps: the many faces of the changing workforce. New York, NY: Cornell University Press.

Taylor, R. (2002). The future of employment relations. Swindon, UK: Economic and Social Research Council.

Thompson, P. & Ackroyd, S. (1995). All quiet on the workplace front: A critique of recent trends in British industrial psychology. Sociology, 29 (4) 615-633.

Tilly, C. (2006). Labour market inequality, past and future: A perspective from the United States. In L. Gonas & J.C. Karlsson (Eds.), Gender segregation, divisions of work in post-industrial welfare states (pp. 13-28). London, UK: Ashgate.

Work intensification and labour market insecurity (2013). Unit 3 Course Material.

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