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28th Feb 2024

AI will destroy more female jobs than male, study finds

  • Clerical work will be the most exposed to AI technologies such as ChatGPT (Photo: Pexels)
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The latest wave of generative AI is more likely to augment jobs than destroy them, according to a new study by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Most jobs will only be partially exposed to the automation generated by technologies such as ChatGPT, so it is more likely that they will be complemented by automation — rather than replaced entirely.

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The impact of these technologies will be greater on the quality rather than on the quantity of jobs, according to the global study.

In addition, the effects will be uneven by gender, job category and country income-level.

"Any form of technological transition would have a strongly gendered effect, with a badly managed process disproportionately harming women," reads the report.

About four percent of global female employment is subject to potential automation through generative AI technologies, compared to only 1.4 percent of male employment. The trend is even more pronounced in high-income countries.

This is because there are many more office jobs in these countries, which have become a source of employment for women as countries have experienced greater economic development.

The ILO estimates that it is clerical work that will be most exposed to technologies such as ChatGPT.

About a quarter of clerical jobs will be highly exposed to this new wave of technology, while only a small percentage of managerial, professional and technical jobs will be highly exposed.

As a result, many administrative jobs may never be created in these developing countries.

The ILO warns of the danger: "Concentrated job losses in female-dominated occupations could threaten advances made in the past decades in increasing women's participation in the labour market."

Moreover, for these low-income countries, the potential benefits of generative AI are limited by the lack of adequate structures to enable its use, with widespread internet access and reliable electricity still pending.

As a result, only 0.4 percent of total employment in these low-income countries will be at risk of automation (equivalent to around one million jobs), compared with 5.5 percent in high-income countries (equivalent to around 30 million jobs).

Regardless of their varying degrees of impact, generative AI is neither good nor bad in and of itself, the ILO report says. Its impact will depend on how its expansion is managed.

While it is true that the automation of certain tasks will free up a certain amount of time that can be used to do more work, as the ILO study points out, attention also needs to be paid to how it is used.

Poor implementation can also reduce workers' autonomy or increase their work intensity, for example when algorithmic management tools are used and there is no room for feedback or discussion with management.

So far, discussions on AI regulation have not addressed the impact of these technologies on working conditions.

The EU's own AI Act has focused on market rather than labour implications, and although it will not be introduced during this mandate, employment commissioner Nicholas Schmit has stressed that they are attaching "high importance" to the issue of AI in the world of work.

"Without proper policies in place, there is a risk that only some of the well-positioned countries and market participants will be able to harness the benefits of the transition, while the costs to affected workers could be brutal," concludes the report.

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