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2013 February 10 Sunday
Amazon Warehouse Work: Try To Avoid It

A Financial Times article about working conditions and pay in Amazon warehouses in Britain illustrates how far the manual laborers have fallen in status. On the bright side, they get several miles of walking exercise per day.

Inside the warehouse, Amazon employees wear blue badges and the workers supplied by the agencies wear green badges. In the most basic roles they perform the same tasks as each other for the same pay of £6.20 an hour or so (the minimum adult wage is £6.19), but the Amazon workers also receive a pension and shares. A former agency worker said the prospect of winning a blue badge, “like a carrot, was dangled constantly in front of us by management in return for meeting shift targets”.

If you work 40 hours per week in the warehouse you make about £240 per week. Contrast this with the pay at a former coal mine in Rugeley, a town which now has an Amazon warehouse.

By the time the pit closed, four days before Christmas in 1990, a spokesman for British Coal told Reuters it was losing £300,000 a week. More than 800 people lost jobs that paid the equivalent of between £380 and £900 a week in today’s money.

The robots are coming. In 10 years time I would be surprised if Amazon is still using half as many warehouse workers as it uses today.

Read the full article if you want to learn why you should accumulate more job skills. The bottom is a totally unfun place to be. Another reason to accumulate more skills: Western countries have debt-to-GDP ratios that make them financial basket cases. To get your skills up to a level that will let you avoid dead-end minimum wage work check out Coursera, Udacity, Western Governors University, and more.

The only thing I could see boosting the relative demand for manual laborers: a financial disaster due to declining Energy Return On Energy Invested. Such a disaster probably would not boost manual labor pay. But it would reduce the ratio of pay between highly skilled and unskilled laborers. We'd have humans doing a lot more of the work which today is done by machines.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2013 February 10 12:07 PM 


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