AI's Impact on White Collar Jobs
Sat, April 10, 2021

AI's Impact on White Collar Jobs

The concern of artificial intelligence taking over everyone’s jobs is becoming increasingly urgent, considering the rapid progress of AI. Some experts believe that it will inevitably and steadily take over large sectors of the workforce, bringing mass-scale unemployment and social unrest / Photo by: Jozef Polc via 123RF

 

The concern of artificial intelligence taking over everyone’s jobs is becoming increasingly urgent, considering the rapid progress of AI. Some experts believe that it will inevitably and steadily take over large sectors of the workforce, bringing mass-scale unemployment and social unrest. Many tech companies and industries are also prioritizing the adoption of AI technologies to replace human workers due to their benefits and efficiency.

Countless reports and studies have shown the immense impacts of AI in the workforce. A 2019 study by McKinsey Global Institute found that clerical work done by bookkeepers, schedulers, and secretaries is especially susceptible to automation. Of those jobs, 72% are held by women. Hence, between 40 million and 160 million women across the world may need to transition between occupations by 2030. 

Job loss due to automation would also affect 512 US counties, displacing more than 25% of workers. The majority of these places are rural areas in the Americana and distressed Americana segments. On the other hand, only 20% of the workforce in urban areas with more diversified economies are likely to be displaced. The Office for National Statistics reported last year that around 1.5 million people in England are at high risk of losing their jobs to automation. Of this number, 70% of the roles are currently held by women. 

According to the BBC, a British public service broadcaster, the three job occupations with the highest probability of automation are waiters and waitresses (73%), shelf fillers (72%), and elementary sales occupations (71%). These are followed by bar staff (71%), kitchen and catering assistants (69%), and more. "It is not so much that robots are taking over, but that routine and repetitive tasks can be carried out more quickly and efficiently by an algorithm written by a human, or a machine designed for one specific function," the ONS said.

Jonty Bloom, a BBC business correspondent, stated that this report showed that the better trained and educated you are, the lower your chances of losing your job. Those jobs that have routine and repetitive tasks are more likely to be replaced by machines. Maja Korica, associate professor of an organization at Warwick Business School, added that the most concerning is the fact that the biggest players in the industry are introducing these changes. "Policymakers and business leaders need to be thinking about how they work together to deal with these problems,” she said. 

White Collar Jobs Will Be Affected

Much of the attention in terms of job loss is focused on blue-collar work, jobs that engage in hard manual labor such as manufacturing, mining, construction, or maintenance. The environment where workers are present may be outdoors or require interaction with heavy machinery or animals. Many warehouses and factories have adopted automated processes more quickly and visibly than other industries.

However, with the massive adoption of AI, it’s not surprising that it might find its way into some aspects of the workforce such as complex decision-making, strategic planning, and creative thought. In fact, last 2019, the Brookings Institution report projected that highly-paid, educated workers will be highly exposed to new AI technology. This, contrary to what Bloom reported.
According to Time, an American weekly news magazine and news website published in New York City, the new wave of automation will particularly affect middle management positions such as finance and inventory management.

Countless reports and studies have shown the immense impacts of AI in the workforce. A 2019 study by McKinsey Global Institute found that clerical work done by bookkeepers, schedulers, and secretaries is especially susceptible to automation / Photo by: Cathy Yeulet via 123RF

 

Richard Baldwin of the Graduate Institute in Geneva argues that AI believes that AI could displace professionals in elite sectors from media and finance to architecture and law. The Brookings report revealed that some of the highest exposure to AI in the near future include chemical engineers, political scientists, nuclear technicians, physicists, occupational therapists, and more. At the same time, well-paid managers, supervisors, and analysts may also be heavily impacted by AI.

“AI is good at tasks that involve judgment and optimization, which tend to be done by higher-skilled workers. So if you’re optimizing ads as an online marketer or a radiologist interpreting medical scans, all of these things take a long time for humans to be good at them. But when it comes to algorithms, once you have the right training data, they tend to be better than humans,” Stanford University doctoral candidate Michael Webb said. 

Erik Brynjolfsson, director of MIT's Initiative on the Digital Economy, stated that a lot of high-skilled tasks would get disrupted by AI. According to Axios, an American news website that covers a mix of news about business, politics, technology, healthcare, and media, the report also revealed that workers with bachelor's degrees will be much more exposed to AI compared to their less-educated counterparts. 

At the same time, workers who are white and Asian American have more exposure than other demographics because of their overrepresentation in technical, engineering and professional roles. However, it was found out that the highest-paid, most elite workers like CEOs would be more protected. 

What Can We Do

While reports about job loss due to automation are spreading fear, some experts stated that there’s a need to worry about it. Some reports showed that there will be a net positive job growth by 2030. Companies need to teach their workers new skills, adapting to new working models and understanding what it means to be ready and fit for the future. Anima Anandkumar, director of machine learning research at Nvidia, stated that workers should also evaluate the future of their own roles. 

Workers need to ask themselves: Are there well-defined objectives to evaluate my job? Is my job fairly repetitive? Is there a large amount of data accessible to train an AI system? Some experts also suggest that workers should adopt soft skills and advanced technology skills. According to CNBC, the world leader in business news and real-time financial market coverage, employers should consider redesigning job roles with a strong focus on the skills required to complete the jobs of today and in the future. 

Anandkumar added that people should aim for jobs that require more creativity and human intuition. “This doesn’t necessarily mean an entire career change. For instance, for lawyers and accountants, there are aspects of the job that require human interaction, collaboration, high-level strategy, and creativity. These will be more valuable in the future,” she said. 

AI will impact us in ways we can’t imagine. Thus, it’s important that we know how we can counteract or address these concerns before we are fully affected by the changes brought by AI. 

While reports about job loss due to automation are spreading fear, some experts stated that there’s a need to worry about it. Some reports showed that there will be a net positive job growth by 2030 / Photo by: Andriy Popov via 123RF