Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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You’ll be sharing your work with robots in the future… unless you’re a woman.

The Illusion of Shorter Workweeks: The Persistence of Long Hours

In 1930, economist John Maynard Keynes envisioned a future where technological advancements would lead to a mere 15-hour workweek. However, despite a 26% reduction in working hours, the average person still clocks in around 42.5 hours per week, as per Eurostat data. A key factor behind this deviation from Keynes’ prediction is our innate desire to compete with peers, driving us to work longer hours as a proxy for productivity.

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, a visiting scholar at Stanford University, explains, “Overwork has been a part of Western society since the Industrial Revolution, when some predicted that automation would create a ‘excess’ of leisure time. That, of course, did not happen.”

Overwork Has a High Price: Burnout, Stress, and Health Risks

Overworking, far from enhancing productivity, value, or personal fulfillment, has been linked to burnout, stress, an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and even shorter lifespans. Yet, many of us have persisted in overworking for a sense of success, often sacrificing our own well-being in the process.

The Pandemic Effect: COVID-19 and the Automation Transition

The COVID-19 pandemic not only encouraged longer working hours but also accelerated the adoption of automation and artificial intelligence, particularly for jobs requiring physical proximity. Amazon’s development of delivery drones and self-driving cabs exemplify this trend. By 2050, experts predict that automation could lead to the loss of 40% to 50% of current jobs.

Jobs that AI will not be able to replace: A Glimmer of Hope

Certain jobs involving complex social interactions, such as teaching, social care, nursing, and counseling, remain beyond the capabilities of current AI systems. Similarly, professions dependent on creativity and jobs like cleaning, with their diverse and unpredictable nature, are less susceptible to automation.

Gender Disparities in the Workplace and the AI Divide

Jobs traditionally dominated by women may not be easily taken over by AI, and robots are unlikely to assume the role of childcare, preparing meals, or doing laundry. Despite the progress made in various fields, women still bear the burden of three-quarters of all unpaid care work and perform 40% more household chores, according to the Office of National Statistics.

Work Restructuring: Adapting to Automation

For many job categories, approximately 60% of tasks are believed to be automatable, necessitating significant changes in the way we work and retraining efforts. A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts that, over the next two decades, 7 million jobs may be lost to AI, but an additional 7.2 million new jobs will be created.

The future of work is marked by uncertainty, as AI reshapes various industries and employment dynamics. While automation poses a significant challenge, it also offers opportunities for growth and adaptation in the evolving job market.



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