IFOW: AI can have a positive impact on jobs

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In a world where sensational headlines about AI and autonomous robots dominate the media landscape, a new report sheds light on a different narrative.

The research, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, explores the nuanced impacts of AI adoption on jobs and work quality. Contrary to the doomsday predictions, the report suggests that AI could have a positive influence on employment and job quality.

The study, conducted by the Institute for the Future of Work (IFOW), indicates that AI adoption is already well underway in UK firms. However, rather than leading to widespread job loss, it suggests that AI has the potential to create more jobs and improve the quality of existing ones.

Anna Thomas, Co-Founder and Director of the IFOW, expressed optimism about the study’s results: “This report not only highlights that the adoption of AI is well underway across UK firms but that it is possible for this tech transformation to lead to both net job creation and more ‘good work’ – great news as we look to solve the UK’s productivity puzzle.”

“With the [UK-hosted global] AI Summit fast approaching, Government must act urgently to regulate, legislate and invest so that UK firms and workers can benefit from this fast-moving technology.”

One key takeaway from the study is the importance of regional investment in education and infrastructure to make all areas of the UK ‘innovation ready.’ The study also emphasises the need for firms to engage workers when investing in automation and AI.

Taking these suggested actions could help ensure that the benefits of AI are distributed more evenly across regions and demographics, reducing existing inequalities.

Professor Sir Christopher Pissarides, Nobel Laureate and Co-Founder of IFOW, stressed the significance of placing “good jobs” at the heart of an economic and industrial strategy in the age of automation. He believes that the study provides valuable insights into how this can be achieved.

The IFOW’s study suggests that with the right approach, AI adoption can lead to a positive transformation of the labour market. By investing in education, infrastructure, and worker engagement, the UK can harness the potential of AI to create more jobs and improve job quality across the country.

Matt Robinson, Head of Nations and Regions, techUK, commented: “Realising the benefits of technologies like AI for all will mean getting the right foundations in place across areas like digital infrastructure and skills provision in every part of the UK to enable and create high-quality digital jobs.

“Access to good digital infrastructure, as well as skills and talent, is a priority for techUK members, and the Institute’s work provides welcome insights into their importance for creating good work throughout the country.”

While the IFOW’s study paints a more positive outlook on the adoption of AI than most headlines, it will be an uphill battle to convince the wider public.

A poll of US adults released this week by Mitre-Harris found the majority (54%) believe the risks of AI and just 39 percent of adults said they believed today’s AI technologies are safe and secure — down nine points from the previous survey.

As the AI industry continues to evolve, urgent action from governments, employers, and employees is essential to realise the opportunities, manage the risks, and convince a wary public of the technology’s benefits.

A copy of the full working paper can be found here (PDF)

(Photo by Damian Zaleski on Unsplash)

See also: CMA sets out principles for responsible AI development 

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