How will AI change the labour market for the better?

Patrick Buckley    8 February, 2021

From the way we shop, to the way we learn, the digital world in which we live is unrecognisable from the reality of a decade ago. One area which generates much discussion within the context of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the topic of the labour market. In today’s post, we explain to you the likely impact that it will have on world of work and what this means for our society going forward.  

So what are we supposed to believe?

On the one hand, AI sceptics may argue that continued innovation in technology will result in unemployment. As machines become proficient in roles previously occupied by human beings, unemployment will subsequently arise in certain sectors. On the other hand, we consider the argument of job creation, innovation and an improved work-life balance. So which is true?

It is true that many positions are becoming digitally managed as industries undergo a digital transformation.  It is also argued that  machines are becoming increasingly emotionally intelligent. The threat of unemployment within lower-skilled sectors may therefore extend in due course to include customer-facing roles such as hotel receptionists, retail workers and secretaries.

This argument is by no means the end of the story. Automation doesn’t have to be a negative thing for our society. In fact, the opposite is true. Whilst many jobs are indeed being lost to AI, even more positions are being created thanks to this booming industry. 

In 2018 The World Economic Forum’s Future Jobs Report estimated that AI will widen the job market by 58 million jobs by 2022. This is expected to be achieved through the creation of 133 million new skilled jobs globally. This is to be accompanied by the simultaneous elimination of 78 million lower-skilled positions.

In short, AI isn’t taking our jobs, it’s just converting them from lower-skilled to higher-skilled positions. Whilst we may no longer require humans to work as cleaners and rubbish pickers in the future, we increasingly will need more jobs to service a booming AI industry. Here we consider not just the software developers and the engineers, but also the salespeople, the marketers, the maintenance teams and logistics companies. These positions, whether they arise indirectly or directly from the AI industry, all depend on servicing machines that didn’t exist just a few years ago.

What does this mean for our Society?

The socio-economic impact of this transition is hard to predict. It considerably depends on the level of social mobility experienced in our future global society. Its benefit will be felt increasingly as more young people around the world access quality higher level education that permits them to follow this transition towards a higher skilled role.

These higher skilled positions require a more qualified workforce. Those who may previously have filled  lower-skilled roles with low earning potential will instead find themselves working in higher-paid, more rewarding jobs. Thanks to AI, more people will experience enhanced career progression opportunity.

Due to the diminishing need for humans to service medial jobs, we will all experience a better quality of life. AI even has the potential to redefine the way we live and work. Professionals may choose to work less as their salaries afford them more leisure time. People may devote more time to fulfilling personal goals. In the not too distant future we may not need to be enslaved to the 9-5. Machines can do all of those medial, administrative and frankly boring tasks which occupy most of our time. 

Final Thoughts

As I see it, AI can only have a positive impact on the labour market. It is the tool that enables us to progress our society forward, to elevate the quality of the jobs which exist today. The extent to which society will benefit from this depends on the ability of the workforce to adjust to these more qualified positions. If society continues to go down this path of digitalisation, the very nature of how we work will be redefined for the better.

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