At the heart of the productivity revolution are the computers, software, and the Internet that have found their way into the production of almost everything a modern economy creates. Factory workers are being replaced by computerized machine tools and robotics; office workers, by software applications; professionals, by ever more specialized apps; communications and transportation workers, by the Internet.
Some work continues to be outsourced abroad to very low-wage workers in developing nations but this is not the major cause of the present trend. This work now comprises such a tiny fraction of the costs of production that it’s becoming cheaper for companies to do more of it at home with computers and software, and even bring back some of it (“in-source”) from abroad.
Consumers in rich nations are reaping some of the benefits of the productivity revolution in the form of lower prices or more value for the money – consider the cost of color TVs, international phone calls, or cross-country flights compared to what they were before.
But most of the gains are going to the shareholders who own the companies, and to the relatively small number of very talented (or very lucky and well-connected) managers, engineers, designers, and legal or financial specialists on whom the companies depend for strategic decisions about what to produce and how…