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‘It’s everyone’: How AI will change work forever and the jobs with the highest exposure

AI is being compared to electricity as a technology that will change work forever.

AI is being compared to electricity as a technology that will change work forever. Photo: Getty

If there was any doubt artificial intelligence was going to radically change the jobs market, it was dispelled this week as Australia’s corporate leaders weighed in on the latest technology.

Commonwealth Bank boss Matt Comyn thinks AI may usher in a new industrial revolution, while even executives fear their jobs could be at risk as more roles begin to be automated.

Globally, investment bankers are suggesting AI is on par with electricity for its potential to reshape the economy, with projections suggesting millions of jobs are about to change.

The shift is already under way in many industries, with the latest analysis revealing that AI skills are attracting a sizeable wage boost for those prepared to get ahead of the curve.

It all begs some seismic questions for workers; what jobs might AI replace? Will the tech make work easier? And how can you prepare to make the most of what’s on the horizon?

The jobs affected by AI

Analysis from the OECD suggests that about 27 per cent of employment in major economies is at high risk of automation as AI is increasingly adopted by the biggest world’s biggest businesses.

That equates to tens of millions of jobs. Australia is unlikely to be immune, with recent data from employment site Indeed finding 21 per cent of job postings had “high exposure”.

 

Generative AI occupations

Those roles were more likely to be in white-collar professions such as software development, legal roles, accounting, human resources, marketing, banking and finance.

Jobs with less exposure are more physical or involve the care economy; including driving, nursing, child care, construction and manufacturing.

But Indeed APAC economist Callam Pickering said while discussion about generative AI had focused on job losses and negative consequences, that wasn’t actually the whole story.

“Obviously those risks exist,” Pickering said.

“High exposure, however, isn’t necessarily a bad thing … [these] jobs are also the ones where workers are most likely to benefit from these tools.

“That could lead to greater productivity across high-exposure roles, freeing up workers to perform more important or critical tasks, and of course higher productivity typically feeds into higher wages.”

The types of jobs that AI will change are important because, as research has shown, tech can have both pros and cons.

For example, in cases where middle-income jobs become automated by technology a split can occur in labour markets that drives some workers towards lower skilled jobs that attract lower wages.

Job opportunities from AI

Workers able to upskill can, however, earn more money in jobs that place more value on knowledge and soft skills.

Employers are already offering a wage premium for jobs that require AI skills.

Figures published last week by PWC Australia showed about 6 per cent higher pay for these roles.

Jobs in areas such as research and development attract an even higher premium of 17 per cent with the addition of AI skills, while advertising-related roles attract an 11 per cent premium.

PWC Australia’s Artificial Intelligence lead Tom Pagram said Australia was trailing other economies such as the US, Britain and Canada though, with even higher wage premiums overseas.

“We’ve got some incredible AI talent in Australia, but it’s fair to say it’s not at the same scale we’re seeing in other countries,” he said.

“We need to think about how we remain competitive on the global stage.”

How to make the most of AI

Pagram said skills sought by employers were shifting at a 25 per cent higher rate in industries that were most exposed to AI, meaning workers needed to change with the times.

That includes training to “embrace AI-enabled ways of working”, according to PWC analysis.

“For the first time we’ve been able to create knowledge and interact with AI models in a natural language interface,” Pagram said of the developments in generative AI.

“Virtually anyone that can now use a chatbot, which is all of us, has access to cutting-edge AI – it’s no longer just the AI team in an organisation using it, but it’s everyone.”

Easier jobs

The good news is that AI should make the jobs of many workers much easier, particularly those who can demonstrate soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity and teamwork.

Pagram said AI will be able to assist many workers in making the most of these skills by taking over many time-consuming tasks such as data entry and organisation.

“It’s about how we help that research analyst be 20 to 30 per cent faster by having access to a tool that gets them to a first draft more quickly,” he said.

“The fundamental skill is being able to understand the types of problems that AI can solve.”

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