A recent study has revealed that advancements in artificial intelligence, exemplified by technologies like ChatGPT, could enable millions of workers in the United States and the United Kingdom to shift to a four-day workweek within the next decade. This study, released by the UK think tank Autonomy on Nov. 20, assesses the potential of AI technologies to balance work and life for workers in these countries.
The report suggests that by 2033, 28% of the workforce in the US and UK, equating to 35 million American workers and 8.8 million British workers, could achieve the same performance and pay levels with a four-day workweek as they currently do in five days, thanks to AI technologies like ChatGPT.
The introduction of large language model technologies in the workplace could potentially reduce the working hours of 71% of the US workforce (128 million workers) and 88% of the UK workforce (27.9 million workers) by more than 10%.
However, the extent to which workers benefit from AI varies by region, due to differences in industrial structures and levels of economic development. In the US, states like the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Utah, and Washington could see the highest proportion of workers shifting to a four-day workweek. In the UK, areas like the City of London, Elmbridge, and Westminster are likely to see the most significant benefits.
A study by the International Labour Organization (ILO) released in August this year highlighted varying risks for different job types in the face of emerging generative AI technologies. Secretarial jobs, for instance, are among the most exposed, with nearly a quarter of their tasks being highly susceptible and over half moderately exposed. In contrast, managerial, professional, and technical jobs have only a small portion of tasks at high exposure risk, with about a quarter at a moderate level.
The ILO study also revealed significant disparities in the impact of AI technologies on countries at different development levels, primarily due to economic structures and existing technological gaps. High-income countries might see 5.5% of total employment affected by the latest technological automation, while in low-income countries, the risk involves only about 0.4% of the workforce. Nonetheless, the potential benefits of new technologies are nearly the same across countries, suggesting that with the right policies, this technological transformation could bring substantial benefits to developing nations.
The study also found notable differences in the potential impact of generative AI on men and women, with women being more than twice as likely to be affected. This disparity is attributed to the high proportion of women in secretarial roles, especially in high and middle-income countries. As generative AI becomes more prevalent and economies continue to develop, some secretarial jobs may never emerge in low-income countries.
The ILO concluded that the socio-economic impact of generative AI will largely depend on how it is managed. Worker voices, skill training, and adequate social protection will be key to managing this transition, with a well-organized, fair, and negotiated policy transition being crucial. Otherwise, there's a risk that only a few well-prepared countries and market participants will benefit from this new technology.
Will Stronge, research director at Autonomy, emphasized the importance of developing a robust AI industry strategy, where unions, industries, and technology experts work together to leverage this technology to increase productivity while ensuring it benefits workers.
Stronge also noted that too many studies on AI focus solely on its profitability or its potential to replace jobs in the labor market. Their latest research offers a new perspective on how to make the most of AI, suggesting that reducing weekly working hours is the most tangible way to ensure AI benefits both employers and employees. If applied fairly and correctly across the entire economic structure, it could usher in a new era where everyone enjoys a four-day workweek.
The report calls on employers in both the public and private sectors to seize this opportunity to become global leaders in the application of AI in the workplace.