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The Future of Work: How AI Will Transform Jobs and the Economy



The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is set to profoundly transform the workplace and broader economy in the coming years. According to a major new study by Evercore ISI and Visionary Future, AI has the potential to significantly boost global GDP while transforming millions of jobs. Their analysis predicts that certain roles will benefit greatly from being augmented by AI, while others face a higher risk of disruption.


Today we will explore key findings from the research and provide detailed examples of how different occupations are likely to be impacted.


The Proliferation of AI in the Workplace


The Evercore ISI study analyzed over 160 million jobs globally to determine their susceptibility to AI technologies. They found that high-income cognitive jobs involving complex workflows, non-routine tasks, or creative skills are likely to see productivity gains from integrating AI. For example, doctors can utilize AI systems to help interpret medical scans and data, allowing them to focus more time on patient care. Architects and engineers can leverage generative design AI to iterate through more options and optimize their work. Even artists may use AI tools to expand their creative capabilities.


On the other hand, middle-income routine jobs were deemed more at risk from automation, as repetitive tasks are easier to codify. This includes cashiers, fast food workers, accountants, factory workers, and truck drivers. For instance, autonomous trucks and warehouses could displace millions of drivers and warehouse workers globally. Tax software has already automated aspects of accounting and bookeeping roles. Low-income manual jobs like cleaners, gardeners, and home health aides were seen as less susceptible in the near term due to challenges for robots to match human dexterity.


Winners and Losers from AI Adoption


The research predicts AI could result in a potential global GDP boost of $13 trillion by 2032. However, these gains may not be evenly distributed across regions and occupations. Developed countries and workers in cognitive non-routine roles are poised to benefit greatly from integrating AI into their workflows. One example is financial analysts who could use AI prediction tools to make more profitable investment decisions faster. Scientists might leverage AI to analyze huge datasets, run simulations, and make discoveries not possible manually. Other augmented roles include marketers, engineers, journalists, teachers, managers, lawyers, and computer programmers. AI can help amplify their uniquely human strengths while handling repetitive tasks.


By contrast, routine white collar office jobs, factory workers, cashiers, telemarketers and more could see jobs lost to automation. For example, up to 30% of accounting and auditing jobs could be displaced by AI doing tasks like data processing and analytics. Middle-income developing economies may also be negatively impacted as factory jobs move towards automation. Some estimate tens of millions of manufacturing jobs across China, India, Mexico and other emerging markets could be at risk.


However, the report emphasizes AI as an opportunity to rethink work, not as a threat of mass technological unemployment. With the right governance and policies, displaced workers can be supported to transition into new augmented roles or more human-centered industries.


Preparing the Workforce for an AI Future


To fully capitalize on AI’s economic potential, substantial investment in retraining and upskilling workers will be critical. Education systems need to equip students with creative, social and analytical skills that are less susceptible to automation. For the current workforce, governments should provide tax incentives and funding for continuing education in digital skills, computer science, and machine learning. Individuals must be empowered to adapt and succeed alongside AI systems via affordable retraining programs for vulnerable workers.


Leaders across the private and public sector need to proactively manage the transition and address the ethical challenges of AI automation. Focused policymaking can ensure displaced employees have a safety net while transitioning into new roles. Companies aiming to benefit from AI should invest in regular skills training and upskilling to augment their workforce. A percentage of the financial gains from AI productivity could also be set aside to fund retraining programs.


The potential socioeconomic disparities arising from AI disruption also highlight the need for ethical guidelines and governance frameworks. As the technology permeates society, considerations around transparency, accountability, privacy and bias will grow in importance. Ongoing research and dialogue between policymakers, companies, ethicists and technologists can help ensure AI positively transforms economies and lives.


Conclusion


The increasing ubiquity of AI has sparked intense debate about the future of work. The Evercore ISI research provides valuable data-driven insights into how different occupations stand to be impacted, predicting workers in creative, analytical and social roles are best positioned to thrive amidst the AI revolution. However, millions in routine middle-income jobs may need assistance transitioning to new occupations through extensive retraining and upskilling initiatives. With thoughtful governance and workforce adaptation, AI can uplift economies, businesses and workers globally, ushering in a new era of enhanced productivity, innovation and human progress. The coming AI shift presents challenges but also unprecedented opportunities to reimagine the future of work.

 

Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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