ILO study: AI will rather add jobs than destroy them
Generative artificial intelligence (AI) will complement rather than destroy jobs by automating some tasks rather than taking over an activity entirely. This is the conclusion of a study published on Monday by the International Labor Organization (ILO), a special agency of the United Nations that works for social justice and the promotion of labor rights.
The study, loosely translated as “Generative AI and Jobs: A Global Analysis of the Potential Impact on Job Quantity and Quality” (PDF), suggests that most jobs and industries will only be partially impacted by automation and complemented rather than replaced by the recent wave of generative AI, such as ChatGPT. The study suggests that the greatest impact of the use of AI may therefore not be the destruction of jobs, but rather the potential changes in the quality of jobs, particularly in relation to work intensity and autonomy.
However, the study warns of strong gender implications, “with the proportion of women in employment potentially affected by automation more than doubling,” it says. Accordingly, the potential impact of generative AI differs significantly for men and women.
Probably the area most affected by the use of generative AI is office work, where about a quarter of tasks are highly exposed to potential automation, according to the study. This, in turn, could also affect women’s employment, as women are over-represented in this sector, particularly in high- and middle-income countries. According to the study, most other professions, such as managers, specialists and technicians, are only at low risk.
Differences depending on the level of development
The study, conducted globally, documents notable disparities in the impact on countries at different levels of development, “related to current economic structures and existing technological lags”. The report finds that 5.5 percent of total employment in high-income countries is potentially affected by the automation effects of technology, while in low-income countries the risk of automation affects only about 0.4 percent of employment. At the same time, with the right policy measures, the “wave of technological change could bring significant benefits to developing countries”.
Still, the ILO report warns that the effects of generative AI on affected workers could still be “brutal”. “Therefore, our study should not be taken as a reassuring voice for policymakers, but rather as a call to use politics to manage the technological change ahead,” it says.
Control is crucial
The study concludes that the socio-economic impact of generative AI will largely depend on how its diffusion is managed. It advocates the development of policies that support “an orderly, fair and consultative transition” and ensure “workers’ voice, skills training and adequate social protection”.
The likely impact on job quality will be more important than the quantitative impact, “both in terms of the new jobs created by the technology and in terms of the potential impact on work intensity and autonomy, when the technology is integrated into the workplace”. For this reason, the authors of the study “emphasize the need for social dialogue and regulation to promote quality employment”.
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