The Future(s) of Unpaid Work: How British and Japanese Experts Predict Technological Transformations in the Domestic Sphere

Published: 1 July 2021

Presentation at SASE Conference 2021

Date: 2nd July 2021, 1.30pm

Vili Lehdonvirta1Lulu P. Shi1, Ekaterina Hertog1, Nobuko Nagase2, Yuji Ohta2 and Setsuya Fukuda3,

The “future of work” has been a hot public policy discussion topic in recent years. A 2013 working paper by Carl Frey and Michael Osborne predicted that “about 47 percent of total US employment is at risk” from automation. In this paper, we seek to broaden the conversation about the future of work to unpaid work, such as cooking, childcare, and caring for the elderly. Time use research suggests that over the course of their lives people spend a significant amount of time on unpaid work in the domestic sphere, yet almost all of the “future of work” discussion pertains to paid work only. Drawing methodological inspiration from Frey and Osborne (2017) and its follow-up studies, we ask a panel of “AI experts” to assess the future automatability of 17 categories of unpaid work. But where previous studies treated experts as a homogeneous group that produces objective data, our study seeks to surface how expert views are necessarily subjective and shaped by their backgrounds and contexts. We demonstrate divergence in opinions between experts from different national contexts and genders, which has significant methodological implications to “future of” type research that draws on expert opinion.

(1) University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom

(2) Ochanomizu University, Tokyo, Japan

(3) National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Tokyo, Japan