AI will impact labour market, but not all segments in same way

Ljubljana, 15 December - Artificial intelligence will have a major impact on the labour market in the future, experts agree, but they are divided on whether it poses a threat to jobs. While some believe that it will mainly optimise jobs and help with staffing challenges, others think people are rightfully concerned.

Kitajska, Shenyang. Robot za razkuževanje in merjenje temperature na železniški postaji v kitajskem mestu Shenyang. Foto: Xinhua/STA

Kitajska, Shenyang.
Robot za razkuževanje in merjenje temperature na železniški postaji v kitajskem mestu Shenyang.
Foto: Xinhua/STA

Artificial intelligence is not necessarily a problem, it is also a solution in the light of the dropping number of working people due to demographic trends, Robert Kaše, professor of management and organisation at the School of Economics and Business, University of Ljubljana, told the STA.

The effects on jobs will vary

However, he said, AI will have a different impact on different categories in the labour market, with some feeling it more than others. He sees three distinct categories of jobs.

"The first segment will be the jobs or professions where demand is generally increasing and where not much will change in terms of the work itself," Kaše explained. Healthcare is such an example.

The second segment is jobs where there will be more changes in the work process and demand for human resources will not decrease significantly. On the other hand, there is a segment of the labour market where there will be less demand for workers, but where changes in the work itself will be less significant.

Kaše pointed to teachers and journalists as jobs where the work itself could potentially change significantly, but he believes that it would be difficult to argue that these jobs will be at risk as a result.

However, there could be less demand for staff in e-commerce or business support. "Here, a lot of things can actually be automated and a lot more jobs will be taken over by artificial intelligence," he said.

Vida Groznik, a researcher at the artificial intelligence laboratory at the Faculty of Computer Science and Information Science, University of Ljubljana, is convinced that artificial intelligence will significantly contribute to the automation and optimisation of jobs.

"I don't think we should talk about risk to jobs, because every new technology affects and changes jobs. Just as it happened, for example, with the invention of the bicycle, the electric light bulb, the conveyor belt, the computer ..." she told the STA.

She believes AI will drive the restructuring of existing jobs, which will require new skills and competences. This will lead to increase in productivity.

Companies and governments now face the task of preparing for the changes and ensuring that proper measures are in place to support workers and companies in adapting to the new era of artificial intelligence, Groznik believes.

According to her, there is no simple and clear-cut answer to the question of which professions are most and which least at risk from AI, as this depends on a variety of factors. Among the most important ones, she pointed to the ability of workers to learn and adapt.

"Among the jobs that have become most at risk with the advent of generative AI are those that deal with copywriting (marketing, advertising, technical writing, administrative work), legal professions (legal assistants), graphic designers, customer service agents, and jobs that involve routine and repetitive tasks that can be more easily automated with the help of AI," she said.

The lowest risk is for jobs that require a high degree of critical thinking, empathy, compassion, creativity, collaboration and problem-solving, such as researchers, doctors, social workers, architects and artists. "I also think that AI will not be able to replace teachers," she stressed.

She believes that programmers are among the professions that will not be threatened by AI. "It is true that tools like ChatGPT can write code, reducing the need for manual coding, but we still need programmers to review, correct, improve and adapt the code. We cannot do this without coding skills."

For some, concerns are justified

Meanwhile, German researcher and psychologist Niels Van Quaquebeke, who is doing research with the School of Economics and Business, was much less optimistic in an interview with the STA. "I think people are rightly worried about this technology," he said.

There are parallels between artificial intelligence and the steam engine and electricity, when there were also concerns about jobs. "In the past, we had other skills that we were better at than our technology was, like creativity and thinking."

"But now we are creating technology that can be better than us in those areas too," he said.

Both Kaše and Van Quaquebeke highlighted a recent study in which some employees in consultancies were given ChatGPT to help them with their work. Those employees who used it were faster, more productive and their products were rated as higher quality, they explained.

Slovenia still facing IT staff shortage

Manpower Slovenia temping agency does not currently see any specific demand from employers for staff with skills in the use of AI tools. These tools are mostly used by technology companies, marketing and the IT sector, the agency told the STA.

Nor does Manpower see a decline in demand for staff, but rather a shortage of candidates for what it calls professions of the future, which are closely related to artificial intelligence.

"At Manpower's IT department, we are seeing an increased demand for machine learning experts, where experience in AI development and the use of generative AI tools is desirable. This is a very positive trend, but there is a shortage of candidates with the necessary skills and experience," the agency stressed.