Warum wir wieder mehr Autos per Hand waschen werden

Martin Sandbu schreibt eine sehr interessante Kolumne in der FINANCIAL TIMES (FT). Heute geht es um das Thema der Arbeitsproduktivität und der steuernden (oder verheerenden) Wirkung des Staates in dem Zusammenhang. Es ist so erfrischend analytisch und sachlich, wohltuend anders als die Diskussionen hierzulande.

Zunächst geht es um eine Beobachtung: In den USA werden viele Autos noch per Hand gewaschen, in Norwegen faktisch nur mit Waschanlagen. Klar, man denkt sich sofort, es liegt an den Löhnen. Es geht aber noch weiter:

  • “Car wash by mechanised service or by manual labour: this simple transaction crystallises two distinct varieties of capitalism. Understanding why they are so different teaches us much about how each has changed, and what it takes to change any market economy for the better rather than for the worse. Every time something is done by humans that could be done by machines — in particular something that elsewhere is done by machines — we should stop and ask why. That’s because using human labour unnecessarily is a missed opportunity for greater prosperity. As a matter of definition, the more labour goes into producing a particular good or rendering a particular service, the lower the productivity of each hour’s work in that activity, and it is ultimately only from greater labour productivity that higher incomes can be paid.” – bto: Es gibt also ein gesamtwirtschaftliches Interesse an Automatisierung. Passt so gar nicht zur aufgeregten Diskussion bei uns.
  • “What determines whether an economy opts for automated solutions or employs human labour? The first part of the answer is the level of wages — in particular at the low end of the labour market, where car cleaners will typically be recruited — relative to the cost of machines. The more people have to be paid, the more likely it is that the profit-maximising choice for a service station is to automate the car wash. If wages remain sufficiently low for a large enough supply of workers, automation is uneconomical.” – bto: Und damit bleibt die Produktivität geringer. Vielleicht können diese Menschen nichts anderes und sind deshalb dort gut aufgehoben.
  • “More automation leads to higher labour productivity, and that in turn allows for higher wages. (…) So not only do rising wages encourage investment in car wash machines, but that investment itself also leaves a greater surplus from which to pay a higher wage for the (reduced) amount of labour still needed.” – bto: Das leuchtet ein und entspricht ja der Erfahrung.

Jetzt wird es aber richtig interessant:

  • “The second part of the answer is wage inequality. (…) the more equal that wages are, the less point there is in paying others to carry out such tasks for you. If it takes 20 minutes to clean a car by hand, and the cost is the same as the amount you can earn in 20 minutes of work, there is little reason to outsource a task you might as well do yourself. If, however, that cost is equivalent to just minutes of your salary because the car cleaner makes so much less than you, things look very different. The demand for unskilled labour-intensive work depends on the unskilled wage relative to higher-paid labour — in other words, wage inequality — as well as relative to the cost of machines.” – bto: Das ist ebenfalls einleuchtend und in den USA, aber auch in Norwegen, zweifellos der Fall. Aber in den USA wird viel mehr per Hand gemacht:

Quelle: FT

  • “The reasoning above explains why. Wages at the low end are higher, and the whole wage distribution more compressed, in Norway than in the US. Or to put it in broader terms, compared with the US, the Norwegian labour market rewards productivity-enhancing automation and renders unprofitable the business models that make intensive use of low-productivity labour.” – bto: Und das wäre genau das, was man in einer alternden Gesellschaft tun sollte, allerdings muss dafür das Arbeitsangebot ausreichend gleichmäßig qualifiziert sein.
  • “(…) it has been the conventional wisdom that inequality is the price you pay for faster growth and that high wages discourage investment and productivity. These views went a long way to legitimise the rise in inequality and the decline of unions in many western countries. But the car wash story captures a particular kind of capitalism that from a conventional view should be impossible: where greater equality leads to growth, greater productivity and therefore higher incomes overall. It is a living example of the Nordic model.” – bto: also mehr Gleichheit, um damit die Produktivität zu fördern?
  • “The high cost of unproductive manual work and relatively cheap high-skilled labour both make companies accelerate investment and adopt new technologies quickly. In such a form of capitalism, all those who would otherwise be cleaning cars can do other, more productive jobs. That, of course, requires the right policies — which in the Nordic countries have involved strong aggregate demand management, good provision of education and measures to protect workers rather than jobs, making it easy for them to switch between activities and industries.” – bto: Das ist alles richtig und entspricht leider gar nicht dem, was wir hier veranstalten: verfallende Bildung, Migration überwiegend Ungebildeter, Strukturerhaltung. So wird das nichts!
  • Das beschreibt auch Sandbu: “There is a coda to the story about the car wash. Around the time I had that lunch chat, manual car washes began appearing in Norway again. Suddenly it became possible to have your car cleaned by hand — to be precise, by the hands of immigrant workers — and, at times, at a cut-rate price. It goes to show that it is possible to regress from a high-productivity, high-wage labour market to a low-productivity, low-wage one if policymakers do not watch out.” – bto: Über diese Folge der Politik der offenen Grenzen hat hierzulande kaum jemand nachgedacht. Denn, sinken Lohnniveau und Produktivität, sinkt der Wohlstand und der Sozialstaat kommt zusätzlich unter Druck!

→ ft.com (Anmeldung erforderlich): “Economics and the art of car maintenance”, 1. März 2019