Working less thanks to technological progress

Automation, artificial intelligence and robotics are transforming the way we live and work. These technological advances are improving productivity, but they also raise challenges and questions about how they will affect workers and the economy as a whole.


The evolution of working hours has been on a downward trend over the past four decades. According to a report published in the Bank of Spain’s Economic Bulletin, the average working week in Spain between 1987 and 2019 has fallen from 37 to 31.8 hours per week.

This study analyses the set of structural changes in the economy that have contributed to the reduction in working hours and the prospects that this trend will continue in the future. It identifies the increasing weight of the service sector, the drive towards part-time work and the progress of technology as the main factors contributing to the decline in average working hours.

Technological advances in automation, robotics and digitisation of information and communication have changed the nature of many work tasks and made it possible to reduce workloads without reducing productivity. A reduction in working hours facilitates work-life balance, reduces stress and improves the health and well-being of workers.

However, while it is true that technology brings personal benefits and helps companies to increase productivity and efficiency, it can also have a negative impact on workers by replacing some jobs with automation or reducing available working hours.


Investing in education and training

The report notes that investment in human capital and innovation are key factors in improving productivity. That is, regions that invest in education and training have a workforce that is better prepared to adopt new technologies and to take advantage of the opportunities of this occupational revolution.

According to the Randstad study, ‘Flexibility at work: embracing change’, 52% of current jobs in Spain are at risk of being partially or fully automated in the next decade. Even so, it should be borne in mind that when we talk about job losses, it is the tasks that require fewer skills, and not the professions themselves, that are being automated by technology.

In a context of economic crisis and the inability of many companies to significantly increase salaries, reducing working hours while maintaining salaries and productivity can be a determining factor in attracting talent. In any case, the process of adaptation by society to this new labour reality will require the collaboration of the business fabric and the public administration so that no one is left behind.


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