AI will reduce workforce, say 41% of surveyed executives

Biz leaders optimistic it can reduce living, breathing cost centers... er, valued workers

A survey of senior biz executives reveals that 41 percent expect to have a smaller workforce in five years due to the implementation of AI technologies.

Not concerning themselves with the hallucinations of generative AI and the refusal of vendors to take responsibility for the output of AI in the workplace, the study involving execs at 2,000 large companies worldwide has already discovered an appetite for job cuts via investment in the somewhat unproven technology.

The research from staffing provider and recruitment agency Adecco Group found a "buy mindset" around AI, which "could exacerbate skills scarcity and create a two-speed workforce."

"Only half of leaders say they will redeploy employees affected by AI. Organisations must urgently rethink this approach, building relevant skills within the organisation to ensure continued employability of today's workforce," the report says.

The figure is highest in Germany and France, where 49 percent of respondents say their company will employ fewer people in five years because of AI. It is lowest in Singapore where the figure is 32 percent. In the United States, the figure is 36 percent.

We might be reassured that 57 percent of respondents think human skills will remain more influential than AI in the workplace. A glass-half-empty reader might wonder about the remaining 43 percent who don't agree.

It's not all bad for humans though, according to the report. Seventy-eight percent of respondents say GenAI will play a "critical role in providing upskilling and development opportunities."

Whether AI will actually result in a reduced workforce is another matter, but the result shows that in a certain segment of the business community, the hype around AI has filtered through into expectations. IT professionals in some companies may well see these expectations turn into projects, whether or not AI harbors the capacity to replace human work.

Rosanne Kincaid-Smith, group chief operating officer at cloud services company Northern Data Group, said AI would reshape the workforce, but opportunities would also be created.

"While there is no denying that commercial interest in AI has been driven by its ability to reduce headcounts, the disruption will be a positive one – these industries have been suffering from decades-long skills crises, short on talent due to the high barriers to entry. Rather than fight it, we need to re-evaluate career paths and invest in the next generation of employees.

"Robotic engineers, data governors, drug discovery analysts – these are the jobs tomorrow that rely on AI," she told us.

It might be fitting to wonder how long these careers will last while also pointing out that coders are still gainfully employed writing Cobol, a 65-year-old language. ®

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