I unfortunately already disagree with this meaning we cater to players with exorbitant amount of free time. Eco is played in 30 days cycles and resembles society building, so playing daily is pretty much 'required' and is obvious for most people. A casual player for me is someone playing two hours after his work time. I know a lot of people of that kind that love doing what you call menial tasks through all that time and relax. Hell I know so many people that play a simulator game resembling their job (train, construction, bus, etc.) they did five minutes ago that even I question why that is - but they love it. I actually know myself very well as well and I do like digging without seeing the sunlight as well.
Official and community servers like White-Tiger do retain that interest - yes. And White-Tiger has been my former private server which did as well. It requires thought and active work by the administrators, of course. I'm hosting gaming communities and even clan-organisations with hundreds of people for over 15 years now with all major games from battlefield over minecraft, ark and conan exiles and I didn't have issues with player retention on grindy stuff. With and without PvP. Sure, there always are players that cannot afford playing regularily (and those tend to play games like hots and overwatch [sorry, blizzard fetish] with 20 minutes rounds in my experience), but Eco isn't built around those indeed. I'd not call those people casual players, though. (I didn't look up the definition, maybe 2 hours a day for playing is already way above casual, but yes, then that's the target group.) And i'd say that Eco is quite clear about what it is with its maximum 30 day cycles.
And I also know we always have all required people on Tiger. People that don't want to see sunlight, experts in lawmaking, experts for economy and a lot of casual players as well. It works out quite well in my opinion. And that's what Eco is about. Using the players interests to create a specialized society with working governance and economy. Tiger is pretty much how we think Eco should be played - while giving you any possibility to change stuff and mod stuff, even to a big margin without requiring mods so you can play how you want to play Eco.
But no, what I wanted to say is that we won't have NPCs. We want players to do the jobs, as this is what the vision our game-design is based on entitles. They will get help with better machinery making stuff more and more efficient and in much later development also with basic and limited automation. But in the end, they still will need to do it themselves. Labour is a part of Eco and required for society simulating. And yes, there is totally a lot of balance still to do!
I can totally understand if someone doesn't like this type of game. But I've got to know so many people that actually do in my 3 years of working at SLG and 4 years of playing Eco that I don't have doubts this works out.