Jobs directly and indirectly created by AI lead to better economy: IBM

By Espie Angelica A. de Leon

Though artificial intelligence (AI) creates new jobs and takes away others at the same time, tech titan IBM said that overall, AI is poised to help grow the economy as it gives rise — directly or indirectly — to more and more jobs in the market.

IBM Australia’s Stephen Braim (left) and IBM vice president for global workforce policy David Barnes

IBM vice president for global workforce policy David Barnes and IBM Australia’s Stephen Braim spoke about “AI and the Future of Work” to local media at the Makati Diamond Residences on July 26 and discussed why the technology works well for business and economies as a whole.

According to Barnes, changes in technology happen in every decade. Unfortunately, history suggests that the number of jobs destroyed by these changes was higher than the number of jobs they generated. However, Barnes reasoned out that if job destruction is the sole effect of technology on employment, then the number of jobs would be constantly shrinking.

“The overall number of jobs is growing as the economy grows,” he said on the contrary, “so the economic impact of technology on indirect jobs is much more important than on direct job creation.”

IBM believes the same phenomenon will happen again with AI, Barnes added.

Braim revealed that IBM currently has a huge number of job vacancies but in the late ‘80s, the company faced challenges. “We did not see technology the way it was coming and we had to transform and we had to move people on, people off,” he related.

Yet, enterprises using information technology and AI have been increasing and the industry, applications, and demand keep on growing, pushing IBM to keep on bringing people in.

In the Philippines in particular, Braim sees an opportunity to create jobs of much higher value.
The problem is, these new jobs require a skillset which not a lot of people possess, causing a shortage of talent for such positions. This skillset includes a STEM background and soft skills.

Unfortunately, education can’t keep up with STEM requirements and soft skills are in short supply as well, said Barnes.

Meanwhile, among these new jobs are what IBM dubs as “new collar” jobs requiring high-tech skills like software engineers, security analysts, digital designers, and application developers.

“The important thing is that 100 percent of jobs will be touched in some way by AI over time and therefore everyone’s skills are gonna be updated, improved, changed in some way. If we can better align our employee skills with the new opportunities, that’s gonna sustain their long-term job prospects much better. They will also mitigate any anxieties they have about their future and their abilities to succeed,” said Barnes.

He mentioned however that layoffs cannot be entirely avoided. What can be done is minimize these layoffs with better planning and more investments.

At IBM, every employee is required to have 40 hours of training every year. In 2017, per employee average was 60 hours a year equivalent to 27 million hours of learning throughout IBM’s entire global community. Investment wise, this translates to $500 million in investments annually.

“Educators and government — they’re part of the solution to find new ways to help employees to get from A to B without falling into unemployment,” Barnes said.

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