Could AI Actually Expand the Global Job Market?

A World Economic Forum report predicts an overall decline in jobs; it also shows that artificial intelligence will create more jobs than it eliminates by 2027. An article in FM Financial Management written by Bryan Strickland, says that a recent global survey report predicts that the job market will shrink over the next five years, but artificial intelligence (AI) actually ranks high among the growth industries that could create opportunities for displaced workers.

The Future of Jobs Report 2023, a 296-page report recently released by the World Economic Forum, projects that the global economy will lose 14 million jobs over the five years, a number that represents 2% of the current workforce.

Specific to the growing field of artificial intelligence, however, the report suggests that AI could serve as more of a solution than a problem.

Among the 803 companies represented in the survey — companies that employ more than 11 million people across 27 industry clusters in 45 jurisdictions — three out of four respondents listed AI as a technology their company is likely to adopt over the next five years. Among the entire survey population, approximately 25% of respondents expect AI to displace jobs between 2023 and 2027, but approximately 50% expect AI to create jobs over the same time frame (the other 25% took a neutral view).

The survey identified "AI and machine learning specialists" as the role among 106 presented that will experience the most fractional growth over the next five years, projecting a 40% increase that would equate to 1 million additional jobs. About 40 of the roles in the research — including accountants and auditors — are projected to have a net loss in available jobs five years from now.

While AI is projected to have a net gain, the report mentioned indications that jobs created by AI would tend to be "higher wage roles with greater barriers to entry." In other words, new roles created by AI may come as little comfort to, for example, employees who lose data-entry roles as a result of AI. The survey projected that about 8 million data-entry jobs will disappear worldwide over the next five years — the largest decline for any single job in the survey.

"For people around the world, the past three years have been filled with upheaval and uncertainty for their lives and livelihoods, with COVID-19, geopolitical and economic shifts, and the rapid advancement of AI and other technologies now risks adding more uncertainty," Saadia Zahidi, managing director, World Economic Forum, said in a news release. "The good news is that there is a clear way forward to ensure resilience. Governments and businesses must invest in supporting the shift to the jobs of the future through the education, reskilling, and social support structures that can ensure individuals are at the heart of the future of work."

According to Strickland, “the survey results suggest that members of the workforce facing possible displacement should embrace technology and welcome opportunities to reskill and upskill.”

Organizations represented in the survey ranked "AI and big data" as 15th among core skills for workers in 2023 but ranked it third among their reskilling plans for 2023–2027 (analytic thinking and creative thinking occupied the top two spots for both current core skills and for reskilling).

Strickland points out that nearly two-thirds of survey respondents expect a return on investment from skills training programs within one year, and employees who take advantage of training opportunities have reason to hope for personal dividends as well. “That's because among 28 technologies presented to survey respondents for possible adoption by their companies over the next five years, more respondents in 26 cases predicted that the technology would create jobs as opposed to displacing jobs.”

The lone exceptions? Humanoid and nonhumanoid robots.

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