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Researchers: 40% of Domestic Work Tasks Could Be Automated within 10 Years

People could be spending 40% less time on housework and tasks related to family care within the next decade thanks to automation using artificial intelligence (AI), according to a team of researchers from Ochanomizu University and the University of Oxford.

The results, published recently in the journal PLOS ONE, were based on a survey of 65 Japanese and British artificial intelligence experts.

Researchers used the Delphi method — a process for gathering opinions on a specific academic topic — to collect participants’ feedback on the potential automation of 17 housework and care-related tasks. Results were relayed back to the participants, and they were given the chance to revise their thinking if they so desired.

“Grocery shopping,” topped the list of potentially automatable tasks, with experts anticipating that AI could bring about a 59% savings of time within the next decade. A time savings of 52% was deemed possible for “use of services,” such as banking transactions, while the projected time savings for “non-grocery shopping” was 50%.

Childcare was thought less suited to automation than household chores. “Hands-on childcare” was considered the least automatable task, with a predicted time savings of 21% over the next 10 years. Similarly, a savings of 22% was expected for “interacting with kids,” such as by playing with them, and a 24% savings for “escorting children outside the home.”

On average, the researchers predicted that automation could save 39% of the time now spent on 17 domestic work tasks within 10 years.

However, the Japanese male experts, when viewed as a separate group, thought the figure would be closer to 35%.

Research team member Prof. Nobuko Nagase of Ochanomizu University said, “In Japan, domestic work is still very much seen as a female concern, so Japanese men may have a low interest in reducing the burden of domestic work tasks.” Nagase called for increasing the number of women active in AI development and related fields.

Ritsumeikan University Prof. Atsushi Aoyama, an expert in technology management, said the figures might reflect the tendency in Japan to seek high standards with regard to household work and safety. Aoyama said Japan must leverage technologies that have yet to reach full fruition in order to build a society in which innovations can be more easily fostered.