Implications of Electronic Mail for the Postal Service's Work Force

GGD-81-30: Published: Feb 6, 1981. Publicly Released: Feb 9, 1981.

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Electronic mail, an emerging development in telecommunications, could significantly reduce the U.S. Postal Service's (USPS) labor force over the next 20 years.

Electronic mail technology is advancing rapidly and the speed with which it is implemented depends primarily on customer acceptance usage. GAO projections indicate substantial workyear losses for USPS if the electronic mail markets develop in the magnitude and timeframe projected, subject to other assumptions. Substantial losses will occur even if USPS participates fully in the electronic communications market, which raises the question of how USPS will reduce the labor force in an orderly fashion without wholesale layoffs. GAO projections show a potential workyear reductions of about 200,000 by the year 2000. Thus, USPS would have to lose about 10,000 full-time equivalent employees annually. With proper planning, GAO believes that USPS could achieve the estimated reduction with little or no adverse impact on employees unless unforeseen technological advancements occur. Increased mechanization and the resulting productivity gains enhance USPS operations. Both the customer presort program and the proposed nine-digit ZIP code are expected to streamline USPS operations and permit it to reduce the size of its work force. In addition, increased alternative delivery systems and potential cutbacks in delivery services could cause a further reduction in the number of USPS employees.

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