Generative AI will augment jobs, not destroy them ILO study finds
The Sector > Jobs News > Generative AI will augment jobs, not destroy them ILO study finds

Generative AI will augment jobs, not destroy them ILO study finds

by Freya Lucas

August 23, 2023

Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) is more likely to augment existing jobs rather than destroy them through the automation of tasks, rather than taking over roles entirely, a new study from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has found.


The findings are timely as the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector begins to grapple with the logistical and ethical considerations presented by AI in a sector which is so driven by connection and authentic relationships.


Generative AI and Jobs: a global analysis of potential effects on job quantity and quality suggests that most jobs, sectors and industries are only partly exposed to automation and are more likely to be complemented rather than substituted by the latest wave of Generative AI, such as chatGPT. 


Therefore, the greatest impact of this technology is likely to not be job destruction but rather the potential changes to the quality of jobs, notably work intensity and autonomy.


For sectors such as ECEC, where administrative tasks such as documenting children’s learning, disseminating information to parents and other stakeholders and complying with regulatory elements, this may prove advantageous. 


Clerical work was found to be the category with the greatest technological exposure, with nearly a quarter of tasks considered highly exposed and more than half of tasks having medium-level exposure. In other occupational groups – including managers, professionals and technicians – only a small share of tasks was found to be highly exposed, while about a quarter had medium exposure levels.


Researchers took in a global perspective to reach the findings, with notable differences in the effects on countries at different levels of development, linked to current economic structures and existing technological gaps.


They found that 5.5 per cent of total employment in high-income countries is potentially exposed to the automating effects of the technology, whereas in low-income countries, the risk of automation concerns only some 0.4 per cent of employment. On the other hand, the potential for augmentation is nearly equal across countries, suggesting that with the right policies in place, this new wave of technological transformation could offer important benefits for developing countries.


The potential effects of Generative AI are likely to differ significantly for men and women, the study finds, with more than twice the share of female employment potentially affected by automation. 


This is likely due to women’s over-representation in clerical work, especially in high- and middle-income countries. Since clerical jobs have traditionally been an important source of female employment as countries develop economically, one result of Generative AI could be that certain clerical jobs may never emerge in lower-income countries.


The socioeconomic impacts of Generative AI will largely depend on how its diffusion is managed. It argues for the need to design policies that support an orderly, fair and consultative transition. Workers’ voice, skills training and adequate social protection will be key to managing the transition. Otherwise, there is a risk that only a few, well-prepared countries and market participants will benefit from the new technology.


Outcomes of the technological transition are not pre-determined,” researchers conclude. 


“It is humans that are behind the decision to incorporate such technologies and it is humans that need to guide the transition process”.


Access the findings here. 

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