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Future of Work After Automation: Towards a five-day weekend society!

10 May 2019
Filming venue:

Oxford Internet Institute, Seminar Room

1 Saint Giles



Machine-learning and robotics technologies promise to be able to replace some tasks or jobs that have traditionally been performed by humans. Like previous technologies introduced in the past couple of centuries, this possibility has been met with either optimism that will permit liberation from the tyranny of employment, or pessimism that it will lead to mass precarity and unemployment.

This presentation draws upon both qualitative and quantitative evidence to explore the possible societal consequences of a radical reduction in the length of the normal working week. Drawing upon the evidence for the psychological benefits of employment, we look at the evidence for the minimum effective dose of employment. The paper also considers why the historical increases in productivity have not been matched with proportionate reductions in working time.


Dr Brendan Burchell

University of Cambridge

Dr Brendan Burchell is a Reader in the Social Sciences in the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge. He is also a Fellow of Magdalene College, Cambridge.

Dr Burchell is director of graduate education for the Department of Sociology and director of the Cambridge Undergraduate Quantitative Research Centre. He was recently Head of Department for Sociology, as well as a Director of Studies and a Tutor at Magdalene College.

Dr Burchell’s main research interests centre on the effects of labour market conditions on wellbeing. Recent publications have focussed on unemployment, job insecurity, work intensity, part-time work, zero-hours contracts, debt, occupational gender segregation and self-employment. Most of his work concentrates on employment in Europe, but current projects also include an analysis of job quality, the future of work and youth self-employment in developing countries. He works in interdisciplinary environments with psychologists, sociologists, economists, lawyers and other social scientists.

Dr Burchell’s undergraduate degree was in Psychology, followed by a PhD in Social Psychology. His first post in Cambridge was a joint appointment between the social sciences and economics in 1985, and he has been in a permanent teaching post in at Cambridge since 1990.

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