Nearly 40% of global employment could be disrupted by AI, IMF says

IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva has called for governments to establish social safety nets and offer retraining programs to counter the impact of AI.

Almost 40% of jobs around the world could be affected by the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), a trend that is likely to deepen inequality, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

In a Sunday blog post, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva called for governments to establish social safety nets and offer retraining programs to counter the impact of AI.

“In most scenarios, AI will likely worsen overall inequality, a troubling trend that policymakers must proactively address to prevent the technology from further stoking social tensions,” she wrote ahead of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, where the topic is set to be high on the agenda.

The ski resort town of Davos was already bedecked with AI advertisements and branding as the summit got underway Monday.

Sam Altman, chief executive of ChatGPT-maker OpenAI, and his biggest backer — Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella — will speak at the event later this week as part of a program that includes a debate Tuesday on “Generative AI: Steam Engine of the Fourth Industrial Revolution?”

As AI continues to be adapted by more workers and businesses, it’s expected to both help and hurt the human workforce, Georgieva noted in her blog.

Echoing previous warnings from other experts, Georgieva said the effects were expected to be felt more deeply in advanced economies than emerging markets, partly because white-collar workers are seen to be more at risk than manual laborers.

In more developed economies, for example, as much as 60% of jobs could be impacted by AI. Approximately half of those may benefit from how AI promotes higher productivity, she said.

“For the other half, AI applications may execute key tasks currently performed by humans, which could lower labor demand, leading to lower wages and reduced hiring,” wrote Georgieva, citing the IMF’s analysis.

“In the most extreme cases, some of these jobs may disappear.”

In emerging markets and lower income nations, 40% and 26% of jobs are expected to be affected by AI, respectively. Emerging markets refer to places such as India and Brazil with sustained economic growth, while low-income countries refer to developing economies with per capita income falling within a certain level such as Burundi and Sierra Leone.

“Many of these countries don’t have the infrastructure or skilled workforces to harness the benefits of AI, raising the risk that over time the technology could worsen inequality,” noted Georgieva.

She warned that the use of AI could increase chances of social unrest, particularly if younger, less experienced workers seized on the technology as a way to help boost their output while more senior workers struggle to keep up.

AI became a hot topic at the WEF in Davos last year as ChatGPT took the world by storm. The chatbot sensation, which is powered by generative AI, sparked conversations on how it could change the way people work around the world due to its ability to write essays, speeches, poems and more.

Since then, upgrades to the technology have expanded the use of AI chatbots and systems, making them more mainstream and spurring massive investment.

Some tech firms have already directly pointed to AI as a reason they are rethinking staffing levels.

While workplaces may shift, widespread adoption of AI could ultimately increase labor productivity and boost global GDP by 7% annually over a 10-year period, according to a March 2023 estimate by Goldman Sachs economists.

Georgieva, in her blog post, also cited opportunities to boost output and incomes around the world with the use of AI.

“AI will transform the global economy,” she wrote. “Let’s make sure it benefits humanity.”

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