AI to affect about one in four jobs globally, IMF says

Women and highly educated workers stand to gain the most from the benefits of the technology as the Fourth Industrial Revolution gathers pace

Emerging and developing markets should prioritise the development of digital infrastructure and digital skills to reap the benefits of AI in the workplace. Getty Images
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Artificial intelligence will affect about 40 per cent of jobs globally, with advanced economies facing greater risks and opportunities from its use, the International Monetary Fund has said.

About half of these jobs may be negatively affected by AI while the rest could benefit from enhanced productivity due to its integration, the fund said in a blog post on Monday, citing its Gen-AI: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work report.

The technology could affect about six in 10 jobs in advanced economies, with roughly half of these roles expected to record a positive impact, the study said.

In contrast, 40 per cent of jobs in emerging markets and 26 per cent of roles in poor countries will be exposed to the effects of AI.

While they may experience less immediate AI-related disruptions, they are also less prepared to seize the technology's advantages, which could worsen the digital divide and cross-country income disparity, the fund said.

“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,” said IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva.

“It is crucial for countries to establish comprehensive social safety nets and offer retraining programmes for vulnerable workers. In doing so, we can make the AI transition more inclusive, protecting livelihoods and curbing inequality.”

Companies and governments have been investing heavily in the technology, raising some concerns among workers about the future of work and the security of their jobs.

AI is also set to be a major theme at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting this week in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

There will be a focus on how AI can help the world tackle challenges such as poverty, net-zero emissions and mental health issues, according to analysts.

AI could also affect income and wealth inequality within countries, the IMF blog post said.

The extent of income inequality will mainly depend on how much the technology complements high earners, the IMF said.

AI can help less experienced employees enhance their productivity more quickly, while younger workers may find it easier to exploit opportunities and older workers may struggle to adapt, it said.

Women and college graduates are more exposed but also better poised to reap the benefits of AI, the analysis showed.

If AI significantly complements higher-income workers, it may lead to a disproportionate increase in their pay.

Moreover, gains in productivity from companies that adopt AI could boost capital returns, which may also favour high earners, it said.

“Both of these phenomena could exacerbate inequality,” Ms Georgieva said.

The “remarkable speed” at which companies are integrating AI into their businesses means policymakers need to act quickly for an inclusive technological transition that curbs inequalities, the IMF said.

The fund developed an AI Preparedness Index that measures the readiness of 125 countries in areas such as digital infrastructure, human capital and labour-market policies, innovation and economic integration, regulation and ethics.

Wealthier economies, including advanced and some emerging market economies, are better equipped for AI adoption than poor countries, although there is considerable variation, the findings show.

Singapore, the US and Denmark posted the highest scores on the index, based on their strong results in the categories tracked.

“Advanced economies should prioritise AI innovation and integration while developing robust regulatory frameworks. This approach will cultivate a safe and responsible AI environment, helping maintain public trust,” Ms Georgieva said.

“For emerging market and developing economies, the priority should be laying a strong foundation through investments in digital infrastructure and a digitally competent workforce.”

Updated: January 15, 2024, 9:37 AM