I think the crafter hirelings and perhaps the mercenary ( I have yet to use a Mercenary ) are the only ones useful now. These you just need to have books in your inventory, normal gameplay, or crafting will fill them. I do not think the gathering hireling books are worth filling now. Perhaps the players living in the RED and BLACK zones find it much easier to fill their books with Rare resource nodes extremely high fame. It requires much more time in the green zone filling books. I went a bit overboard, building 8 houses on two islands with 20 hirelings total. It was a full time job trying to keep books filled for all these hirelings. I quit using 1/2 of them, long before this patch. In the future I will probably only use the ones in my primary house.
I don’t bother filling books anymore. I used to carry around a couple of low-tier mercenary journals, just as a way of tracking xp gain, but now that they fill at 800, it’s not feasible to carry so many.
I hope you reconsider. You risk removing one of the single most compelling aspects of AO if you view it as nothing more than a way to get a low number of free resources. Obviously, the returns need to be toned down from what they are now, but numbers on test aren’t even in the ball park.
Lose laborers, and you lose the only reason I have a personal island. (I don’t farm). Lose laborers, and you lose the only reason I gathered rough logs/stone and bought other mats to upgrade my buildings. Lose laborers and you lose my only incentive to buy or craft increasingly higher tier furniture.