Could AI and automation promote social inclusion

training, businesswoman, suit
geralt (CC0), Pixabay

The debate over whether technologies destroy or create jobs is long running. And researchers and commentators alike differ about the impact of AI and automation on the number of jobs in the future. A report by the World Economic Forum  predicts that by 2025,  52 per cent of total task hours across existing jobs will be performed by machines. By 2030, up to 800 million jobs could be replaced by technology altogether.

However, the World Economic Forum still considers that technology bring about net positive jobs over the coming decade. One thing that most labour market researchers agree on is that regardless of the number of jobs, the content of jobs and occupations will change. This, it is predicted, will require extensive programmes of training and retraining, in other words requiring lifelong learning.  Writing in an article in the Globe and Mail Sinead Bovell asserts that in this way “artificial intelligence presents an opportunity for a more socioeconomically inclusive career start.”

She argues that “Throughout much of the past century, a person’s success in life could be largely attributed to their socioeconomic circumstances at birth.” This advantage is magnified when it comes to applying for jobs. But changing technologies are leading to a new focus on skills, rather than previous educational attainment, leading to a more level playing field when in comes to employment in teh future. There does appear to be some shifts by employers towards recognizing what people can do, rather than what university they went to and who they know. But for some years now researchers have been predicting such a change and it is very slow.

Yet there certainly does seem to be a shift towards recognising and valuing skills and in most European countries a debate over how access to training can be improved. Whether this shifts into greater social economic inclusion remains to be seen.