Labor intensity

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Work intensity is a business indicator that shows the relationship between work performance and working hours .


Labor intensity thus affects the production factor labor . The working conditions prevailing in economic subjects ( companies , private households , the state and public administration ) are differentiated according to stress (work intensity, financial pressure ) and resources ( work content , scope for decision-making , meaningfulness , social support ). The work intensity is a task-related workload . The term work intensity usually refers to long working hours , high work volumes , quantitative workload, time and deadline pressures and unfavorable environmental conditions such as B. summarized frequent interruptions . The effect of the work intensity also depends on the task at hand, whether it is mainly physical or mental work.

In 1979 , the occupational psychologist Robert Karasek developed a job-demand-control model in ergonomic research that investigates the effects of the work situation on health . Numerous analyzes have been able to prove that high work intensity has a negative effect on the health situation and psycho-mental resilience . The work intensity drops very significantly with increasing age . When it comes to performance pay, the intensity of work and the pace of work usually have a direct impact on pay.


In the early phase of English industrialization , it was believed that there was a negative correlation between work performance and wages . What this meant was that a high wage reduced labor intensity and willingness to work. Subsequently, classical economics dealt with labor intensity. In his book The Prosperity of Nations (March 1776), the economist Adam Smith took the opposite and now valid view that when wages are high, "workers are always harder, more conscientious and quicker at hand than where they are low". David Ricardo recognized in 1817 that an extension of the working day (i.e. working hours) and an increase in labor intensity had an effect on profit ; However, this only applies to time wages. However, he understood labor intensity to be the relationship between capital and labor.

Karl Marx , Friedrich Engels and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin paid great attention to labor intensity. In 1867, Marx dealt extensively with labor intensity in his main work Das Kapital : “The effectiveness of labor is inversely related to the time it takes to work”. By this he meant that there is an inverse relationship between work intensity and work time . He examined the rate of surplus value at constant wages. Lenin treated labor intensity as one of the conditions for increasing labor productivity . In 1919 Lujo Brentano assumed that it was observed everywhere that "the workers of the nations with shorter working hours do more than those with more working hours ...".

The business economist Eugen Schmalenbach brought in 1925 as the first labor intensity as costs influencing factor in the discussion, by increasing the speed of motor vehicles, trains or ships not because of the increase in the level of employment , but the punctuality mentioned due. For Erich Gutenberg , the work intensity of the worker varied in 1957 with the work speed of the machines he operated , within the limits that are set for human work performance. The work intensity of machines - depending on their technology - can be increased, whereby the decisive factor is whether the person operating them can endure this increase without loss of performance or performance errors. In 1960 Werner Sombart understood “work intensity as the worker's energy expenditure within a certain time”. In 1964, Edmund Heinen equated work intensity with work speed. In 1975, work intensity in the GDR was regarded as the “expenditure of physical and psychological labor per unit of time”.


The influencing variables of the work intensity are the working hours , the pace and the volume of work . If the working hours fall, the work intensity increases, assuming the conditions remain the same. If the pace of work is increased, all other things being equal, the intensity of work increases. If a higher volume of work has to be managed in the same working hours, the work intensity increases:

The change in the intensity of the work leads to a change in the amount of product produced in a unit of time . If an employee increases the number of packages packed in one hour from 120 to 140 packages, the work intensity has improved. The more intensive work is done, the more production units are produced as work results . Every increase in labor intensity initially results in an increase in gross profit. The equivalent of work intensity in terms of value is the ratio between personnel costs and sales revenue per unit of time.

With regard to the arable land , the labor intensity decreases as the usable area increases .

Business aspects

Depending on the form of wages , this affects the work intensity. If the labor intensity increases in performance wages, it increases proportionally with it. When time wage , a change in labor intensity has no effect on the other hand; an increase in intensity therefore leads to an improvement in labor productivity . Gutenberg pointed out that the labor intensity of piecework tends to be greater than that of people working on time wages.

If the working time is reduced with a constant volume of work, the work intensity increases and vice versa. If the work intensity cannot be increased, overtime results . Increased work intensity increases the risk of faulty productions with subsequent fault costs or falling product quality . In addition, technical progress has contributed to the acceleration of production processes . The pace of work and the intensification of work, especially in mass production and assembly line production, are therefore the subject of disputes between employers and unions . Changes in the work intensity represent an operational adjustment process that can be controlled by the company management ( intensity adjustment ).

The adjective “labor-intensive” relates to another business dimension. Businesses or branches of industry are labor-intensive in which the production factor labor is the most important of all production factors and therefore personnel costs make up a large proportion of the total costs. These include (non-rationalized) agriculture ( viticulture ), the service sector , trade , craft or the construction industry . The opposite is the asset-intensive industry.


In economics , labor intensity means the relative capital endowment per worker :

It compares the economic production factors labor and capital . The fewer workers there are with constant capital, the cheaper the labor intensity. The economic labor intensity is thus equal to the ratio of capital productivity and labor productivity .

Individual evidence

  1. Christian Hetzel, Working conditions and health among older people in family businesses , 2012, p. 247
  2. Christian Hetzel, Working Conditions and Health for Older Persons in Family Businesses , 2012, p. 289
  3. Bernhard Badura / Antje Ducki / Helmut Schröder / Joachim Klose / Markus Meyer (eds.), Absence Report 2012 , 2012, p. 186
  4. Christian Hetzel, Working conditions and health among older people in family businesses , 2012, p. 147
  5. Harald Schliemann / Reiner Ascheid (eds.), Labor law in the BGB: Commentary , 2002, § 611 Rn. 578
  6. Hubert Kiesewetter, Unique Europe , 2006, p. 168
  7. ^ Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations , 1776, pp. 71–71.
  8. ^ David Ricardo, Principles of Political Economy and Taxation , Volume I, 1817, p. 32
  9. ^ Karl Marx, Das Kapital , Volume I, 1867, p. 375
  10. Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, The next tasks of the Soviet power, works , Volume 27, section “The increase in labor productivity”, 1960, pp. 247-250
  11. ^ Lujo Brentano, Wages and Working Hours after the War , 1919, p. 12
  12. ^ Eugen Schmalenbach, Fundamentals of cost accounting and pricing policy , 1925, p. 117
  13. Erich Gutenberg, Fundamentals of Business Administration , Volume I: Die Produktion, 1970, p. 353
  14. Ulrich Frantz, The basics of a business cost and performance theory , 1977, p. 194
  15. Werner Sombart, Allgemeine Nationalökonomie , 1960, p. 141
  16. Edmund Heinen, Betriebswirtschaftliche Kostenlehre , 1964, p. 384
  17. ^ Academy of Sciences of the GDR , Treatises of the Academy of Sciences of the GDR, Publications Department of the Scientific Councils , 1975, p. 34
  18. Erich Gutenberg, Fundamentals of Business Administration , Volume I: Die Produktion, 1957, p. 45
  19. Gabler Wirtschaftslexikon, Volume 1, 1984, Col. 254
  20. ^ Artur Woll, Wirtschaftslexikon: Jubiläumsausgabe , 2008, p. 37 f.