Labor Input

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Labor Input


an indicator characterizing the expenditure of labor expressed in man-hours on a production of a given consumer value or on a technical operation. The reciprocal of labor productivity, labor input measures the efficiency with which labor power, one of the main production resources, is used. The magnitude of the indicator is influenced by a number of factors, including the technological level of production (capital available per worker, power available per worker, usefulness of objects of labor), the training level of the labor force, the organization of labor, the quality of working conditions, and the complexity of the goods being produced.

In the narrow sense, labor input represents the average expenditure of living labor for either a single unit or the total volume of output. Expressed in terms of man-hours, labor input for a single unit of output is obtained by dividing the total number of man-hours by the number of units produced. Advances in science and technology lower labor input; that is, they decrease the man-hours required for production processes. A distinction is made between individual labor input, which describes the time required by an individual worker for the production of a single unit of output, and group labor input (shop, plant, branch of industry).

In the broad sense, labor input (total, or overall economic input) represents the aggregate expenditure of living and embodied labor. Here, the indicator is used to establish the number of manhours required for a certain type of output when more than one branch of the economy is involved. It includes the man-hours of the workers directly engaged in manufacturing the product, as well as the labor embodied in the raw materials, fuel, equipment, and other items expended in production. In this sense, labor input gives a quantitative description of the total labor expended by society in producing goods and providing services.

The average labor input for a branch of industry represents a planned standard for socially necessary labor. Hence, it is an important qualitative and quantitative characteristic of the social conditions of production for a given type of product or service.

The qualitative side of labor expenditures is characterized by concrete labor and the use value created by this labor. Hence, the planned standard for socially necessary labor input is closely related to the results achieved and the use value created. A decrease in labor input may be expressed either as an increase in product quality with the same number of man-hours or a saving on man-hours per unit of output. The unity of quality and social labor input proceeds directly from the twofold nature of labor as discovered by K. Marx.

In a quantitative sense, the planned standard for socially necessary labor input characterizes the amount of labor power in general (energy, nerves, muscles), that is, the expenditures of abstract labor. Such a standard is formed in stages. Initially, the relative amounts of overall national work hours to be expended in the various branches of industry in accordance with the structure of social demand are determined. Inasmuch as the relative demands for metals, chemical products, building materials, machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, and other types of output determine the macrostructure of social production, they also, in the final analysis, affect the distribution of labor power among the various branches. Under capitalism, the distribution of labor is effected in a spontaneous manner and regulated by the market mechanism and the law of value. In a socialist economy, labor distribution is carried out in a planned manner with due regard for the need to ensure a speedy and balanced attainment of designated goals in improving the standard of living and creating the material and technical basis for communism.

In the next stage, the planned standard representing the average labor input for a branch of industry is determined; this standard is related to the satisfaction of concrete human needs through various types of interchangeable production outputs. The magnitude of the standard is established under normal conditions and with an average level of worker training and intensity of labor at enterprises accounting for the bulk of output. In other words, this type of planned standard represents an average for the branch. Here, the quality of the various types of interchangeable products and the level of expenditures required for their production are also averaged out. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Soviet economists developed methods for determining total labor input that have yielded positive results in practical computations.


Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 1. In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23, ch. 5.
Belousov, R. A. Obshchestvenno neobkhodimye zatraty truda i uroven’ optovykh tsen. Moscow, 1969.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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