Labour, in its broadest sense a basic factor of production used in combination with capital and land to produce commodities or render services; more specifically the number of people working or available for work, or the amount of work done.

The conditions of supply of labour are unlike those of a commodity. An increase in the price of a commodity will induce an increase in supply, but the supply of labour is influenced by a wider variety of conditions, especially in the short run. The number in the labour force depends on the population and the proportion of it who work. Some people can choose within wide limits whether or not to work, e.g. married women, and the net effect of higher wages on the number at work is uncertain: it may increase because more money attracts new workers, or diminish because some married women will give up work when the pay of their husbands rises. The amount of work done depends on the number of employees, the length of time worked and the intensity of the effort. The number of hours worked depends on the relative preference of the employee for income and leisure: if he wishes to earn a high income, he will work longer hours and forgo leisure. Many employees do not have much choice about how long they work but must fit into the arrangement made in agreements between employers or trade unions; where they do, higher wages will not necessarily induce longer hours, for if a worker is satisfied with a wage of £15 a week, a rise in pay from, say, £400 per shift will allow him to earn this amount in five shifts instead of six.

It is unlikely that a worker would use the whole of his increased income potential to demand more leisure in this way, unless he placed no value at all on the other things that additional income could buy; but he may combine more leisure with more income, working fewer hours than he did before.

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Since then his writings have in turn been increasingly reinterpreted as a special case both by some followers and by some economists who had not wholly accepted his writings. The content of economics is in a state of change, and this site is therefore not a final statement of economic doctrine.

Economics is in the last resort a technique of thinking. The reader will therefore need to make an intellectual effort, more substantial for some web entries than for others, to get the most interest and value out of this website.