IBM releases new research into AI’s impact on the job market

August 20, 2023


A recent IBM survey suggests that as many as 40% of the global workforce may need to reskill or upskill over the next three years, owing to the rapid advancement of AI technologies. 

The study’s message is clear: embrace AI soon or risk being outpaced by those who do.

Generative AI is proving its skills for many technical and creative tasks, from content creation to software coding. Such capabilities have ignited concerns about AI taking over human jobs. However, IBM’s research suggests that the focus should be on harnessing AI rather than fearing it.

To understand AI’s impact on the business landscape, IBM aggregated data from two major studies: a survey involving 3,000 C-level executives across 28 countries and another surveying 21,000 workers from 22 nations. 

C-level executives anticipate that AI integration may necessitate reskilling for nearly 40% of their employees within the coming three years. To put this into perspective, this could potentially affect 1.4 billion out of the 3.4 billion people in the global workforce.

Yet, it’s not all about job displacement. A significant 87% of the surveyed executives believe generative AI will augment human roles instead of eliminating them.

IBM’s research further underscores the advantages of AI adaptation. Those who proactively adjust to “technology-driven job changes” witness an average revenue growth rate that’s 15% higher, and companies emphasizing AI integration experience a 36% higher revenue growth rate than their competitors. 

Reflecting on this, IBM pointedly remarks in the study, “AI won’t replace people—but people who use AI will replace people who don’t.”

This follows a similar study by McKinsey that found AI threatens to eliminate low-pay service jobs, which are at 14 times higher risk of replacement.

Machine operators, customer sales representatives, and other service occupations also face higher risks. One CEO already controversially replaced 90% of his customer service staff with chatbots. 

People may need to restructure their skills

Interestingly, the study also highlighted a shift in the hierarchy of valued skills.

The study says, “STEM skills are plummeting in importance, dropping from the top spot in 2016 to 12th place in 2023.”

As AI soaks up the ‘heavy lifting’ of STEM-related tasks, humans could be better off focusing their abilities on in-demand soft skills, including critical and creative thinking.

Educational researchers argue that students should be taught to use AI critically as a ‘force multiplier’ or extension of their abilities rather than a replacement.

With that said, computer science and AI-related education are rocketing in popularity, as those who truly master AI will be best placed to leverage the technology.

Many AI-related job postings from companies like OpenAI, Google, and Netflix offer salaries over $500,000.

As ever, there are both challenges and opportunities, and businesses must balance losing jobs to AI with creating new ones to avoid soaring unemployment rates.

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Sam Jeans

Sam is a science and technology writer who has worked in various AI startups. When he’s not writing, he can be found reading medical journals or digging through boxes of vinyl records.


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