Whether additional effort translates into higher wages depends on the other options available to workers and on their bargaining power
in particular, whether they feel able to leave if the pay is not worth the trouble.
Indeed, in the past, high turnover helped motivate some factory owners to share the gains from workplace discipline with workers.
The “$5 day” introduced by Henry Ford in 1914 was an “efficiency wage”, according to Daniel Raff, of the University of Pennsylvania, and Larry Summers, of Harvard University.
Workers on Ford’s assembly lines spent entire shifts doing mind-numbingly repetitive work, and many could not stick it for long.
Ford’s solution was to pay a wage well above what workers could earn elsewhere.
That helped compensate them for their suffering.
More important, it led to a long queue of eager applicants, and the knowledge that anyone who left would quickly be replaced and could not easily return.
But high turnover does not appear to bother Amazon much.
The past decade’s weak labour markets have meant queues of willing workers even without the promise of above-market pay.
The same technologies that monitor workers can also reduce the training time needed to prepare new employees, since the gadgets around them guide most of their activity.
And new disciplinary technologies create an additional risk for workers.