The arrival of artificial intelligence (AI) will be a win for the UK jobs market as it will create as many jobs as it displaces by boosting economic growth over the next 20 years.
This is the claim in a new report from PwC, which found that although the overall effect on UK jobs is estimated to be broadly neutral, there will be “winners” and “losers” by industry sector.
It comes after Oxford University researchers last Autumn warned that 80 percent of jobs in transportation, warehousing and logistics and 63 percent in sales are likely to disappear due to automation.
The PwC report however predicted that there would be a 22 percent rise in jobs in the health sector, and a 16 percent rise in professional, scientific and technical services, coupled with a 6 percent rise in education.
Manufacturing (-25 percent), transport and storage (-22 percent) and public administration (-18 percent) are estimated to see the largest net long-term decrease in jobs due to AI.
PwC predicts that around 7 million existing jobs could be displaced, but around 7.2 million could be created, giving the UK a small net jobs boost of around 0.2 million.
“Major new technologies, from steam engines to computers, displace some existing jobs but also generate large productivity gains,” said John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC.
“This reduces prices and increases real income and spending levels, which in turn creates demand for additional workers,” he said. “Our analysis suggests the same will be true of AI, robots and related technologies, but the distribution of jobs across sectors will shift considerably in the process.”
“Healthcare is likely to see rising employment as it will be increasingly in demand as society becomes richer and the UK population ages,” he added. “While some jobs may be displaced, many more are likely to be created as real incomes rise and patients still want the ‘human touch’ from doctors, nurses and other health and social care workers.”
“On the other hand, as driverless vehicles roll out across the economy and factories and warehouses become increasingly automated, the manufacturing and transportation and storage sectors could see a reduction in employment levels,” he warned.
. In response to the release of this report, Matt Walmsley, EMEA Director at Vectra – a company that automates the hunt for cyber threats by using AI – has provided commentary on how AI is helping to create new cybersecurity jobs.
Experts however have warned that AI is already impacting the jobs market.
“AI is already changing the workplace, and in some areas creating new work opportunities,” said Matt Walmsley, EMEA Director at Vectra. “For example, in the uniquely adversarial world of cybersecurity, we’re seeing that AI is addressing a significant professional skills and resource gap and is reducing the barrier to entry to the cybersecurity profession.”
“We are seeing enterprises actively deploying AI platforms to support junior staff in front-line cybersecurity operations roles,” he added. “In some cases, even utilising graduate program interns. AI helps these less technically experienced, but still savvy staff, to teach on the job and augment them with intelligent supporting technology.”
Another expert also pointed out that the fears that AI could result in widespread job losses are misplaced.
“Fears of mass job displacement by Artificial Intelligence (AI) are simply not realistic – the technology has intelligence, but not wisdom, and that limits what it can accomplish by itself,” explained Mayur Pitamber, go-to-market manager at Insight.
“The real impact of AI on the employment market over the next few years will be to shift people from one role to another, and to create new roles,” said Pitamber. “This migration does not represent a great rupture in the jobs market, but a continuation of what has always happened with new technologies that automate tasks, going back to the first industrial revolution.”
This position was backed by Adam Maskatiya, UK general manager at Kasperksy Lab.
“Artificial intelligence is a relatively new technology, and this unfamiliarity can cause people to feel uncertain about it,” said Maskatiya. “There is a massive wealth of opportunity with the implementation of Artificial Intelligence in terms of the jobs it will create, but there is also the need to ask some searching questions – and to consider some of the operational difficulties of AI in use, as well as the ethical and legal issues as to who bears responsibility for the actions of an autonomous or intelligent machine.”
“It’s always a cat and mouse game in cyber-security – where opportunities for growth can be explored, cyber-criminals will work to develop attacks on and against them,” said Maskatiya. “We’ve seen critical systems infiltrated and sabotaged in the past and it is likely that they will continue to be targeted well into the future – so it is of utmost importance that all artificial and machine learning devices are robustly secured. If Artificial Intelligence can cause a 22 per cent rise in employment, it should be implemented, but this shouldn’t come at the expense of people’s privacy or security.”
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