How we adopt – and adapt to – artificial intelligence in the workplace will be crucial to the future of our region’s economic growth and the very nature of employment.
The 4th Industrial Revolution is already bringing many changes. And, policymakers, employers, and civil society organizations across the Asia Pacific are looking for innovative and inclusive ways to maximize the opportunities created by AI.
They also want to manage the challenges. Among these is the need to understand what the evidence is telling us. In particular, governments want to see what the likely outcomes are so that they can invest today in policies to re-skill for an AI-driven future.
To get a clearer view of what’s happening across this fast-changing landscape and inform public policies, Microsoft Asia has just released a review of multiple pieces of research on AI’s likely impacts for jobs and skills. It analyzes the challenges that could prevent some of Asia Pacific economies from harnessing the full benefits of AI, and it sets out action points to help capture these gains.
The report surfaced both optimism and reservations about AI’s effects across Asia Pacific labor markets. It found that:
The review examines the validity of a long list of enduring perceptions about AI’s impacts. For example, some might believe that workers’ wages will decline as AI displaces more work tasks. However, existing research suggests that wages could instead rise through various ways as new technologies spread. For instance, a study in Australia showed that retraining 75% of displaced workers could cut future potential increases in income inequality by two between 2016 and 2030. Similarly, it challenges the notion that AI’s largest productivity gains will be enjoyed by high-income countries. The report instead points to predictions that middle-income economies, such as The Philippines, stand to reap the highest productivity gains.
It also takes on suggestions that digital sectors will benefit the most from AI, saying that traditional, non-digital sectors such as healthcare or energy are expected to gain up to three times the productivity benefits.
The report suggests policymakers and industries both stimulate greater AI adoption and establish re-skilling programs. In this environment, workers should be valued for their ongoing skills and not just for their formal educational qualifications. It also emphasizes the need for an overall inclusive approach that extends the benefits of AI to all workers.
The review comes up with nine high-level action points to help make the most of AI’s workplace impact: