182 Million clerical jobs at risk of Automation: ILO Study on AI

The potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on jobs and the future of work has long been a topic of debate and speculation. A groundbreaking new study from the International Labour Organization (ILO) provides data-driven insights into how one type of AI technology, generative pre trained transformers (GPTs), could affect occupations globally. For instance, the ILO study on AI finds that 182 million clerical workers globally are most exposed, with 82% of tasks at medium or high risk of automation.

The key finding should provide some reassurance to workers: complete automation of occupations as a result of GPTs is likely to be limited. Instead, the main impact will be transforming tasks within occupations through a mix of automation and augmentation effects.

Key Insights on Automation vs Augmentation:

  • Augmentation – where AI automates some routine tasks but humans still perform core job duties – has the greatest potential impact. The study estimates 10-14% of jobs globally could be augmented by GPTs.
  • Full automation potential is much lower, affecting less than 1% of jobs in low income countries up to 5% of jobs in high income countries.
  • Clerical support roles show the highest automation potential, with 24% of tasks highly exposed. Other occupations have just 1-4% of highly exposed tasks.
  • Women’s jobs are over twice as exposed to full automation effects than men’s in high income countries. Augmentation potential is also higher for women.

Facts and Stats on Exposed Occupations:

Source: ILO
  • 182 million clerical workers globally are most exposed, with 82% of tasks at medium or high risk of automation.
  • Other “knowledge work” jobs like technicians, professionals and managers also show above average exposure.
  • Low exposure occupations include agricultural, crafts, machine operation and elementary roles.
  • 5.5% of jobs in high income countries show high automation potential vs 0.4% in low income countries.
  • High income countries also have the most augmentation potential at 13.4% of jobs.

Key Findings on Managing the Transition:

Source: ILO
  • Proactive policies on training, social protection and regulation are needed to manage effects.
  • Consultation between employers and workers can minimize negative impacts.
  • Lower income countries lacking digital infrastructure may not benefit as productivity diverges.
  • Differential impacts across countries and occupations require tailored transition policies.
  • Augmentation requires policies to govern AI use to protect job quality and workers’ rights.

The ILO study provides an invaluable starting point for policy debates on AI, jobs and the future of work.


Guiding a Just AI Transition: Policy Insights from the ILO’s Global Study

While not predicting mass technological unemployment, the study makes clear proactive policies and social dialogue will be critical to guiding a just transition.

Here are the key policy recommendations flowing from the ILO analysis:

Invest in training and social protection to help workers transition

For workers whose jobs are fully automated, comprehensive policies will be needed to mitigate negative impacts and support transitions to new decent work. Key measures include:

  • Employment insurance, unemployment benefits, and income support
  • Funding and incentives for retraining and skills development
  • Job search, career counseling and job matching assistance
  • Hiring subsidies or direct job creation schemes in areas of labour demand
  • Extending social protection like healthcare to gig and platform workers

Make consultation and negotiation mandatory before automating jobs

Laws should require employers to consult workers and unions before introducing technologies that could displace jobs. This allows for:

  • Assessing impacts and exploring alternatives like retraining or redeployment
  • Establishing fair criteria for termination and rehiring
  • Negotiating packages to soften the blow of redundancy

Invest in care economy jobs as an alternative source of employment

As women’s clerical and admin roles are most exposed to automation, governments should expand care sector jobs in health and education to provide alternative opportunities. This requires:

  • Policies and funding to meet rising demand for care and improve job quality
  • Skills training and certification schemes tailored to workers transitioning into care roles
  • Improved pay, benefits, representation and working conditions in the care sector

Use laws and collective bargaining to protect workers and regulate AI

Laws and collective negotiation are needed to ensure technologies are used responsibly and don’t impair job quality through increased monitoring, micro-management and work intensity:

  • Guarantee basic rights like living wage, limits on hours, and rest breaks
  • Restrict/regulate uses of AI that infringe on privacy or enable mass surveillance of workers
  • Require algorithmic transparency and give workers recourse in disputes over AI-enabled decisions
  • Mandate workers’ input into how AI is implemented to improve rather than degrade jobs

Address the digital divide to ensure developing countries also benefit

Without action to improve electricity, internet access and digital skills, lower income countries will be excluded from the productivity gains AI can offer. Policies should promote:

  • Infrastructure investment, increased connectivity and lowering cost of access
  • Digital literacy programs, especially for youth entering the labour force
  • Support for colleges and vocational programs training AI talent
  • Partnerships around technology transfer and IP issues

Preparing for the Age of Augmentation: How Workers Can Thrive Alongside AI

Previously, we covered insights from a new ILO study on how AI could transform work globally, and policy ideas to manage the transition. But how can individual workers best prepare for an era where many jobs will be “augmented” by AI automating routine tasks while humans continue delivering value?

Here are 5 tips to ready yourself for working alongside algorithms and intelligent machines:

Develop creativity, problem-solving and people skills

As routine administrative and analytical duties get automated, the most valuable human skills will be those AI cannot replicate, like creativity, complex communication, collaboration, leadership and innovation. Take courses, join mentoring programs, volunteer, or take on projects at work to strengthen these capabilities.

Brush up on digital literacy and tech basics

To work effectively with AI systems, you’ll need some base understanding of key technologies like machine learning, natural language processing and neural networks. Build digital literacy through online learning, and take advantage of any tech training your employer provides. Having some basic coding skills will also help you collaborate with technical teams.

Know your industry’s leading AI applications

Get up to speed on the major AI systems and tools being adopted in your field, whether it’s robotics in manufacturing or chatbots in customer service. Understand how these technologies are likely to impact workflows and operations. Subscribe to industry publications or join professional associations to stay current.

Be proactive managing the human-AI balance

When new AI gets implemented at work, take initiative to collaborate with management and technical teams on how your role could best be structured alongside it. Share ideas for optimizing the human-AI balance, considering ergonomics, skill level, job satisfaction and productivity.

Keep expanding your skillset

Commit to lifelong learning so your skills stay relevant amid constant AI advances. Take online courses, earn certifications, attend seminars and conferences, and learn applications beyond your current role. Having a broad and adaptable skillset will ensure you remain invaluable.

Rather than fighting inevitable technological change, workers should embrace AI’s potentials while asserting their uniquely human strengths. With the right mindset and preparation, augmentation can enhance our careers rather than jeopardize them. The future remains ours to shape.

Securing Decent Work for All: Uniting to Shape an Ethical AI Future

So far, we’ve covered key insights from an ILO study on AI’s impact on work, policy ideas for a just transition, and tips for individuals to thrive as AI transforms jobs. However realizing the greatest benefits from AI while safeguarding human dignity ultimately requires collective action. Workers, employers, governments and civil society must unite to guide AI’s development and application.

Here are 5 ways we can work together to secure an ethical AI future with decent work for all:

Strengthen social dialogue and build consensus

Robust social dialogue between workers, employers, governments and other stakeholders can build shared understanding of AI impacts and’ donde consensus on how best to manage change. Both national and industry-level bodies are needed.

Invest in people-centered lifelong learning systems

Funding is needed to make lifelong learning a reality so all workers can access training in future-ready skills, soft skills and tech basics. Learning should strengthen individuals’ agency rather than just serve corporate needs.

Expand digital access and improve digital literacy

Universal broadband infrastructure, affordable internet service, community technology hubs and digital literacy programs are prerequisites for an inclusive AI-powered economy. The tech marginalized will otherwise be left behind.

Incorporate ethics into education and professional standards

Curricula across disciplines should integrate modules on ethics in technology design, development and application. Professional associations should also incorporate ethical standards into certification requirements.

Empower global cooperation around technology governance

Nations must strengthen development cooperation and institutions like UNESCO to promote AI for social good, while managing risks. Shared principles, guidelines and governance models for emerging tech can safeguard rights.

The unprecedented pace of AI progress makes global cooperation more urgent than ever. But by joining together around a human-centered vision for our shared technological future, we can ensure AI promotes prosperity, sustainability, equality and dignity for all. The writing of this future is up to us. Comment below on how Sanctity AI can help be your voice!

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