The future demand-supply gap in unpaid work in Japan and the UK: How much technology do we need?


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Much care work is still carried out in households in the form of unpaid work. In developed countries, although different kinds of care are provided through public policies at varying degrees, people spend a significant amount of time on care work such as childcare, elderly care, and housework for other family members. The quality of care provided in the household affects various social and economic outcomes of the family members by influencing their productivity, educational achievement, and well-being. However, the demand for household care work in future generations may not be met in many countries due to population ageing and the increasing trend for dual-earner households across the globe.

The demand for elderly care is expected to be increasingly high in the near future, while the supply of young care providers is shrinking. The same may be true for future childcare if parents, particularly mothers, would spend more time in market labor than current generations due to the shrinking labor force or the shift toward a more gender-egalitarian family form. Technologies may compensate for such a trend by automating some work tasks at the market and some housework and care work activities at the household. This study aims to assess the future demand-supply gap in the intergenerational transfer of care work in Japan and the UK, two similarly developed countries with different demographic and cultural contexts.

The study first describes the inflow and outflow of the intergenerational transfer of unpaid work at households in Japan and the UK using the framework of National Time Transfer Accounts (NTTA). Then, it will examine how the demand and supply of unpaid work will change in the future due to the changes in population structure and quantify the demand-supply gap in unpaid work at the national level. It will further discuss how much these demand-supply gaps in unpaid work would be relaxed due to the diffusion of automation technology in households in each country. This study will, for the first time in our knowledge, provide a prospect of how much technology should contribute to remedying the future care crisis in aging societies.


Dr Setsuya Fukuda is a Senior Researcher at National Institute of Population and Social Security Research (Tokyo, Japan), where he conducts demographic research on the inter-relationships between gender, family formation and family policy. He received his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from Meiji University. After his graduate study, he worked as a researcher at Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany in 2008-2011. His current research focuses on gender role division, educational assortative mating, fertility and intergenerational transfers in international comparative settings, looking, in particular, at how Japan’s gender structure and intergenerational relations are going to change in relation to population decline, new family policies and technological development.

Co-author of Research: Dr Rikiya Matsukura, Nihon University, Tokyo, Japan. 

Updated:  27 November 2018/Responsible Officer:  JI Management Group/Page Contact:  Japan Institute