HotDocs ’23: After Work

What would you do if you had universal income?

In the rise of AI and automated machinery, many jobs are likely to be eradicated from the market, leaving the question of what will happen to the workers? Many astute philosophers and intelligible business men seem to think that there must be a universal income in order to make up for this. While the economics behind it are mostly left in the background, After Work does grapple with different cultures who don’t know what to do about their job problems. In America, they work a lot and they won’t stop to take paid vacation, leaving as many as 520 million vacation hours on the table. 

Still, if there were another situation more appealing than claiming these hours, After Work suggests that the viewer to move to Kuwait. In the wake of the country’s oil boom, a nation that used to live in poverty, is now seemingly overflowing with wealth, relative to their population. The result was a bill designed to make a job into a ‘right’. Now, anyone who desires a job can get one. But, as a result, many of their places of employment have too many workers, leaving people to just wander for most of their days, not accomplishing anything constructive. These aimless workers leave work to spend their income on food, video games and clothes and deal with hollowness of not having a job that fulfills them.

This emptiness that comes as the result of unemployment (or too much employment) is one of the saddest notions of the film. After Work spends a good amount of time in Korea and points out that the government is now implementing measures to get their population to stop working. This has included a policy to have all PCs shut down at 6 PM in order to prevent employees from working past a reasonable hour. They’ve also started broadcasting government supported ads that advocate people to change their lifestyle and step away from work to be with family or enjoy a hobby. 

Though After Work’s most interesting questions are the ones that will go unanswered. What will a society with universal income look like? What will we do with our time if our life doesn’t surround work? What will work look like in a future where more and more A.I can do jobs better than us? If you’re curious about any of these questions, this film is certainly worth a watch. 

After Work is now playing at HotDocs ’23. For more information, click here.

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