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Labour Wrap: A serious side to Valentine's Day

Feb 11 2016 06:41

Despite the goings on of recent days, many retailers and restauranteurs will be celebrating as they tally their weekend takings, says  Terry Bell in his Labour Wrap.


Cape Town - If only to gather our wits, we probably need this next, Valentine weekend, as a respite from political shenanigans and the reality of the actual state of the nation, says Terry Bell in his latest Labour Wrap. But, despite the goings on of recent days, the interest rate hike that we are still digesting and dire warnings about soaring household debt, many retailers and restauranteurs will be celebrating as they tally their weekend takings.

In common with many other regions of the world, shop tills, especially for confectioners and florists, will produce a veritable cacophony of rings and bleeps as they tally sometimes record sales. And the United States, says Bell, will lead the way because this was where the “commercialisation of Cupid” had its origins.

But this year, he adds, will also see a further decline in the very element that started the modern Valentine’s Day celebration: the card. Millions of these will now flit electronically from computer to computer. And not many people involved will bother to think about the implications of this any more than they may wonder about the origins and history of the day.

But fewer physical cards means less work for printers and for those who supply the materials for such production. There is also less work for postal sorters and deliverers. In the greater scheme of things, Bell admits, this may be of little consequence, but it is a reflection of how the march of technology affects jobs.

However, Bell maintains that this provides a serious lesson for trade unionists, workers and those concerned about technological progress and its effect on jobs and the social system. The story of Valentine cards, he adds, provides an early example of how technology gradually improved productivity and efficiency and resulted in job losses.

Today, courtesy of the development of the micro chip, the wage and welfare gap has become huge and has ensured that millions of people will probably never find work.

* Add your voice to the big labour debate.

- Follow Terry on twitter @telbelsa.


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