The Future of Unpaid Work: Estimating the Effects of Automation on Time Spent on Housework and Care Work in Japan and the UK
30 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2022 Last revised: 4 May 2023
Unpaid household work is vital for human reproduction and enables all other forms of work. However, debates about the “future of work” have yet to address unpaid work. In this article, we present first estimates of the impacts of “smart” and “AI” technologies on unpaid work. We ask what the likelihood is of various types of unpaid work being automated, and how this would change the time spent on domestic work and on the gendered division of labour. To achieve this, we adapt three established automation likelihood estimates for paid work occupations to estimate the automation likelihood of 19 unpaid work tasks. Applying these estimates to Japanese and UK national time use data, we find that 50-60% of the total time spent on unpaid work could be saved through automation. The savings are unevenly distributed: a woman aged 20-59 in Japan could save over 1,000 hours per year, whereas men in the UK could save 600 hours and men in Japan only 250 hours. Domestic automation could free up to 9.3% of women in Japan and 5.8% of women in the UK to take up full- or part-time employment, pointing to substantial potential economic and social gains from domestic automation.
Keywords: unpaid work, Automation, labour supply, gender equality, time use
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation