Labour means any effort, whether physically or mentally, put into the production of goods and services

It means all human exertion that is put into the production of goods and services.

According to Alfred Marshall, "labour is any exertion of mind or body undergone partly or wholly with a view to some good other than the pleasure derived directly from the work”. 

Labour can also mean any work, manual or mental, which is done for a reward.  

Types of labour

There are three types of labour: skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labour.

1. Skilled labour: This refers to jobs which required specialized training and skills.

People who performed skilled labour usually have at least a bachelor's degree. Skill labourers receive the highest salary in the organisation.

Lawyers, accountants, and medical doctors are just a few examples.

2. Unskilled Labour: This refers to work that does not require any special skills.

All that is required of unskilled labour is the willingness to work with hands.

Most unskilled labour requires no or little formal education. Unskilled labourer usually receives the lowest wages in the organization.

Examples of unskilled labour are gardeners, cleaners and messengers.

3. Semi-skilled labour: While not as skilled as skilled labour, semi-skilled labour requires more skills than unskilled labour.

Semi-skilled labour requires only rudimentary knowledge about a particular field.

Examples of skilled labour are nurse assistants and flight attendants.

Characteristics Of Labour

1. Labour is perishable: Labor is perishable because long periods of unemployment can cause an individual to lose knowledge.

Furthermore, labour is perishable, meaning that it cannot be stored for later use.

Indeed, a day without work is a day lost forever in the life of a worker.

2. Labour is a human factor: Just like an entrepreneur, labour is a human factor.

Because labour is a human factor, it is motivated by salaries and wages.

3. Labour is heterogeneous: Labor is heterogeneous because no two people produce the same quality of work.

Each person's abilities and efficiency are unique.

As a result, some persons are more efficient than others in similar tasks (due to their abilities and specific training).

4. Labour is imperfectly mobile: Even though labour is more mobile than land, it is not as mobile as capital

This is due to several factors including family, cultural background, language barriers, and ability to adapt to a new environment.

All of these factors can cause immobility of labour.

For example, a person may not transfer from a job in Nigeria to a Job in France if he does not understand French (language barrier).

5. The demand for labour is derived: Just like other factors of production, the demand for labour is derived.

The reason is labour is demanded because of the goods and services that can be obtained through it.

6. The supply of labour is relatively inelastic: The supply of labour depends upon the size of the population age etc.

The supply of labour is also influenced by the prevailing wage rate in the country. 

Since it takes time for people to respond to changes in wage rates, it follows that the supply of labour is relatively inelastic for most industries.

7. Labour is an active factor of production: Unlike land and capital, Labour is an active factor of production because it puts land and capital to good use.

Production does not start when we have land and capital, production starts when we have adequate manpower.

Indeed, labour is the beginning and end of production. This is because production only starts when there is adequate labour and ends when there is no labour.

As a result, land and capital require labour to function.


8. Labour has its inherent limitations: Machines can work an unlimited amount of time but labour can only for a limited amount of time.

This is because labour is a human factor, which means that it requires leisure and resting time to be productive.

No labourer can work for more than twenty hours at a time without becoming exhausted. 

As a result, workers must find ways to recharge their batteries outside of working hours and remain productive.

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