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OECD calls for more policies on helping workers manage risks of AI

11 Jul 2023

A report by the OECD on workers’ attitudes to AI warns that without international cooperation, the benefits AI can provide workers may not be realised.

AI and its impact on the jobs market was a key focus of the latest employment outlook report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Its secretary-general, Mathias Cormann described the recent acceleration of generative AI-related developments and tools as a “technological watershed with material implications in many workplaces”.

“There is a real need to consider longer-term policy frameworks on the use of AI in the workplace and to continue to foster international cooperation to maximise the benefits while appropriately managing the downside risks,” he added. His calls for more policy considerations on AI’s impact on the employment market follow the passing of the EU’s AI Act last month. The AI Act aims to preserve people’s rights and safeguard against nefarious uses of the tech.


OECD’s Outlook report posited that while firms’ adoption of AI tech is relatively low, the countries belonging to the OECD network may be on the brink of mass adoption of the tech thanks to rapid advancements. Workplaces will be no different in this regard, and many are already using AI tools such as ChatGPT. Companies like Slack, Microsoft and Google have all co-opted AI into their workplace tech offerings. The OECD’s report is somewhat limited in that it is mostly confined to the manufacturing and finance sectors. It also only looked at seven countries, which is a fraction of its wider network of nations that numbers more than 100.

Still, the report provides insights into workers’ and employers’ attitudes to AI. For example, three in five workers surveyed said they are concerned about losing their job to the tech in the next decade. A report by Goldman Sachs that was released earlier this year predicted that generative AI could replace up to 300m jobs.

Others said they believed wages might decrease as a result of increased AI adoption. Privacy and productivity concerns were also flagged, with more than 50pc admitting they are worried about their privacy amid the so-called AI revolution. Three-quarters of respondents believe that AI has increased the pace at which they are expected to work.

Upsides to AI for workers with disabilities?

However, the findings were not all negative. There were some positive productivity potentials singled out, with some workers and employers reporting that AI can be used to reduce boring, repetitive and even dangerous tasks. There was also a feeling that AI can potentially help workers with disabilities – 46pc of those in finance said it could, while half of the respondents working in manufacturing believe it.

For these positive aspects to be fully realised, workplaces need proper legislation in place to protect workers’ safety and rights. The OECD is calling for transparency in decisions made regarding AI that affect workers and workplaces.

It also recommends that governments ensure that adequate skills training is provided to everyone across all sectors so they can keep up with evolving tech. Teaching AI skills and ethics should be part of school curricula so young people can grow up with the knowledge they need to work in any industry, the report adds.

Jobs that are at the highest risk of automation account for about 27pc of employment. High-skill occupations are at the least risk of AI while low and middle-skilled jobs are most at risk. These include those working in construction, farming, fishing, forestry, production and transportation.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea joined Silicon Republic in 2021 as Careers reporter, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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