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Will We Lose Our Jobs? According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), AI is expected to create nearly 58 million new jobs by 2022

By Khalil Zafar

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation are no longer regarded as a "transitory mania" or a "cool innovative technology" for various tech geeks and management professionals to gush over. Instead several companies worldwide are now shifting towards this phenomenon for boosting productivity and enhancing profits. For human resource management experts, it's like the fourth industrial revolution, which brings with it tremendous challenges, just like the one they had during the early days of Internet.

Robots- and AI-based systems have penetrated almost every sector of the economy and it's the pace of technological change that is uncanny. This entry of automated and smart technology is no doubt disrupting the workplace, both in negative as well as positive manner. Indeed, AI and automation has the utmost potential of redefining workplace productivity, efficiency and precision; but is this entirely beneficial? Experts believe this rise of AI and automation will replace human workers and very few jobs will be safe in an increasingly artificially intelligent workplace.

Friend or Foe?

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), AI is expected to create nearly 58 million new jobs by 2022. Although 133 million new roles will be created, nearly 75 million jobs will be displaced due to AI and automation, leaving only the most skilled 58 million at work. Along with that nearly 50 per cent of all companies are expecting their labor force to shrink by 2022 due to automation, but 40 per cent are expecting to extend their workforce and more than 25 per cent are expecting automation to create new roles in the company. This suggests that people with the right set of skills will remain in demand in the upcoming competitive job market.

Canada Economic Development (CED) for Quebec Regions has already announced investments of nearly $6.3 million to support various AI businesses in their efforts to scale up and expand into new markets.

There has been increasing evidence signifying the benefits of intelligent systems across the world, and now business leaders can take critical decision based on facts in the boardrooms. Companies employing AI systems are gaining competitive advantage by reducing operational costs and head counts but this also comes as a worry for those working in roles at risk of displacement. Companies' HRs have the tiresome job of finding and developing people who have the skill to adopt and take automation to new heights. They also have the gigantic task of developing job roles which will be fit for the artificially intelligent workforce. There is also a possibility of major shift in quality, location and permanency for the new roles. Companies are expected to grow the use of contractors doing specified work and employ remote staffing.

On the other hand, many employees are optimistic that this AI-driven shift in the workplace will create more jobs which are better rewarding and creative. As AI systems further develop, new skills and jobs will be required to set and implement systems, processes and policies. Increase in productivity due to automation means more revenue will generated, which provides opportunity for employees to earn more. There it is a likely possibility that those jobs which can adopt to the automation will remain while those involving repetition or basic problem-solving tasks will eventually be replaced. Smart technology and AI-based systems will be making decisions instead of humans in industrial settings, cashiers may be replaced by automated stations and gadgets, similarly customer support and similar other jobs.

Research suggests that data scientists, software/app developers and social media personnel will be among the most in demand professions. Plus jobs that require "human skills" like sales and marketing, innovation and customer service are also expected to increase in demand. Jobs that are expected to go away include data entry, payroll and certain accounting functions. Physical tasks in the industries are also expected to be considerably substituted by mechanized labor so that humans can focus on more productive tasks.

Management can cope with these challenges by hiring new permanent staff with skills around new technologies, well defined roles and responsibilities and reskilling existing employees. To fill the skill gap, HR can allocate the work to freelancers and temporary workers.

As high-tech devices and automation take over, work tasks performed by humans and those performed by artificially intelligent machines are likely to undergo huge transformations. These changes and transformations, if coped and managed sagaciously, could lead to a new age of exciting and productive enterprise, work life balance, but if managed poorly, it presents the risk of widening skills gaps, greater inequality, ethical issues and broader divergence.

The time to shape the future of work is now. Artificial intelligence and automation provides an opportunity to grow but people with the right skills will survive the future in the upcoming competitive era.

Khalil Zafar

Senior HR and management consultant


Khalil has over 10 years of rich and progressive international experience in strategic HR, training, leadership development, talent acquisition, organizational renewal, business process automation, performance management and organizational/strategy development.

Currently he is working as senior manager HR/ Partner-Organizational Renewal at Straxecute Consulting (UAE & Pakistan). He is also a professional trainer/instructor who has not only delivered trainings to corporate clients, but has also taught students at higher education level to help them develop their management knowledge and skills.

 Khalil has completed a M.Sc. in Organizational Psychology/HRM, along with a master's degree in mass communication. He is also an IRCA certified internal auditor for quality management systems.

He has taught people from different nationalities including India, Pakistan, Philippines, Lebanon, Jordan, Cameron, China, Scotland and Canada.  


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