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Alibaba's Jack Ma says in 30 years people will only work 4 hours a day

Key Points
  • Jack Ma tells CNBC more automation means humans will "only work four hours a day and maybe four days a week."
  • He said the number of places people vacation will also increase.
  • He did warn, however, that getting there could be painful.
Alibaba Group Chairman Jack Ma
VCG | Getty Images

Jack Ma could be the poster child for the benefits of globalization: trained as a teacher, he founded e-commerce platform Alibaba in 1999 and is now a billionaire.

Now he's predicting another benefit for humans: drastically shorter workweeks.

Speaking from the sidelines of Alibaba's Gateway '17 conference in Detroit to CNBC, the billionaire businessman said in the next three decades, "people [will] only work four hours a day and maybe four days a week. My grandfather worked 16 hours a day in the farmland and [thought he was] very busy. We work eight hours, five days a week and think we are very busy."

That's about the same number as famed economist John Maynard Keynes predicted in 1930, when he said in 100 years the workweek will be much shorter, around 15 hours per week as automation increasingly takes care of people's material needs.

Ma also said people in the future will be able to vacation in a far greater variety of places.

"Normal people visit, like, 30 places. Thirty years later, they will probably visit 300 places," he said.

The former teacher did warn, however, it will be unpleasant to get there, saying, "[the] next 30 years is going to be painful."