AI and job losses – white-collar workers need not fear…

As recently as the end of the last decade, for many journalists or journalism interns, a key part of the post-interview process involved the time spent transcribing the interview; a process that can take hours depending on the length and speed of typing. Nowadays, uploading the recording to a transcription app such as Otter.ai produces a relatively good transcript in minutes through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning software. A recent update, rolling out in September 2022, comes with something called Otter Assistant “to join meetings on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet to take and share notes automatically.”

Users can also send this Otter assistant to attend, record and transcribe online meetings that they cannot attend themselves. This piece of artificial intelligence also promises to provide “a summary after your discussions, to help you navigate the conversation.” At the current rate of progress, it wouldn’t be entirely unreasonable to wonder how much longer until this artificially intelligent time-saving software takes the next step and goes from simply transcribing and creating a “summary “, to the drafting of a passable report element; an artificially intelligent journalist if you will.

Concerns about how advances in technology might impact job opportunities are not new, and the current wave of progress in AI implementation has once again brought them to the fore. .

A studytitled Artificial Intelligence and released in December 2021 by the policy-focused Intergovernmental Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), tries to answer these questions by analyzing the impact of AI on the sectors where it has already been deployed, focusing on the period from 2012 to 2019 in 23 countries. Namely, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Kingdom -United Kingdom and United States

Fear not, the AI ​​is here

“The past few years have seen impressive advances in the field of artificial intelligence, particularly in the areas of image and speech recognition, natural language processing, translation, reading comprehension, computer programming and predictive analysis. This rapid progress has been accompanied by concern about the possible effects of the deployment of AI on the labor market, including on the displacement of workers”, write the authors of the study, explaining then that this wave of Technological advancement might have a different impact on employment in comparison to previous advancement.

They argue that past advances have been associated with the automation of routine tasks, such as computers taking over record keeping, calculation, and information retrieval. On the industrial side, task-oriented robots have taken on manual tasks, mostly replacing workers in “low- and medium-skilled occupations.” Therefore, those perceived as highly skilled professions that require abstract reasoning, creativity, and social intelligence,” were considered beyond automation.


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“The type of capabilities in which AI has made the most progress are disproportionately used in highly educated white-collar occupations. As a result, white-collar occupations requiring high levels of formal education are among the occupations most exposed to AI: science and engineering professionals, but also business and administration professionals, managers; business leaders; and legal, social and cultural professionals” , explain the authors.

However, they found that exposure to AI did not lead to a decline in overall employment. In fact, in all 23 countries, in occupations most exposed to AI, employment increased between 2012 and 2019, while actual working hours decreased in occupations least exposed, largely due the increase in the number of people working part-time. Moreover, job growth was not necessarily due to an increase in jobs requiring AI-related technical skills.

“This is because job postings requiring AI skills remain a very small share of overall job postings. In 2019, on average across the 36 occupations analyzed, job postings requiring AI skills only accounted for only 0.14% of all vacancies in the UK and 0.24% in the US In contrast, in the same 36 occupations, employment increased by an average of 8.82% in the US. United States and 11.15% in the United Kingdom between 2012 and 2019,” report the researchers.

They argue that while AI may have replaced workers in certain skills, it appears to have created more opportunities for workers with digital skills. This group is also likely to find it easier to use AI effectively in their work, even if they don’t necessarily have AI-related technical skills. In some cases, the authors note that AI has led to increased productivity, thereby reducing production costs, “which can lead to increased employment if demand for a product or service is sufficiently elastic in relation to price.This was the case, for example, for the weavers of the industrial revolution.

Notably, occupations with the highest computer use experienced higher employment growth over the study period.

“Relevant AI applications for these professions include: identifying investment opportunities, optimizing production in manufacturing plants, identifying problems on assembly lines, analysis and filtering recorded job interviews and translation In contrast, computer-intensive occupations with low or negative employment growth were occupations with relatively low exposure to AI, such as office workers and professionals education,” the study concludes.

It should be noted that if the study goes to 2019, much more progress has been made since then in AI. From 2022, easily accessible AI software can now create visual arts, videos and summarize discussions; further increase the number of professions exposed to AI.

Old fears, new technologies and more inequalities

Not so long ago, with the advent of the computer, some feared that automation would lead to major job losses. Such sentiments led James Bessen, an economist and lecturer at Boston University School of Law, to investigate the relationship between computer automation and jobs, dating back to 1980, and specifically the US data.

Among his finds, published in 2016, he writes: “Employment grows much faster in occupations that use computers more. At the sample average, computer use is associated with an increase in employment of about 1.7% per year… However, computer use is associated with growth well-paid jobs and a decrease in low-paid jobs, thus a substantial reallocation of jobs, requiring workers to acquire new skills to change jobs.

He adds that computer use is also associated with an increase in the “share of the workforce in an occupation with at least four years of college education, even for occupations that do not require University diploma”. However, while computer automation did not lead to an overall decline in the number of jobs in the United States according to its survey, Bessen found that it was associated with greater wage inequality among those with computer skills. needed and those who don’t, “accounting for 45% of the growth in the pay gap between the 1990se and 50th percentile of the entire workforce since 1990.” DM/ML

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