The Four-Day Work Week
I have to admit that I am very pleased with myself when I am right about a change I predicted. Today was especially satisfying because yesterday I told my wife that the four-day work week was coming because of societal change that would create the demand. Today, the BBC said that “In a 2022 UK trial of 70 firms, 86% of companies said the four-day week was such a success, they planned to keep it in place after the pilot ended.” This was a 32 day work week and not the usual 40 hours.
The demand for a shorter work week is going to be the result of several factors. One is that it is what workers want. Who would like the option of work less for the same pay? But the real driver is technology. The advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) are coming so fast that many menial jobs will simply be replaced by robots. The COVID-19 pandemic saw many minimum wage workers simply drop out of the workforce which meant businesses had to look for alternatives. And business owners want this to happen because robots are perfect replacements. They don’t make mistakes, they don’t have human resource issues, and they are reliable. A robot can work 24/7 without complaint.
The current unemployment rate in the United States is 3.4%. That is an amazing statistic. A healthy economic rate is 3-5%. But this rate today is not because we are enjoying an amazing, robust economy. We are currently suffering a staggering inflation rate of around 7%. Our national debt is 128% of GDP. In the western world, only Italy and Greece are higher. So, our unemployment rate masks the fact that the U.S. economy is in trouble. The result of all this is that we are facing more than a recession. We may experience another market crash that may be worse than 2008 and approach 1929.
I believe that the four-day work week and working remote will become a permanent reality in this decade. But it won’t necessarily be a good thing. The demand for workers is such that AI and robotics will have to fill the void. Many countries have an unemployment low-rate problem because of an ageing and declining population. The People Republic of China has been forced to drop its one child policy because it needs workers. Japan is faced with a similar situation.