By: Intan Adila Badrul Hisham
A recent report by McKinsey Global Institute titled “Generative AI and the future of work in America,” published on 26 July 2023, has sparked discussions about the potential impact of AI on job markets. The study’s conclusion is both fascinating and concerning: nearly 12 million Americans in occupations with shrinking demand may need to switch jobs by 2030.
The report highlights four key categories that account for 75% of the projected job declines: office support, customer service and sales, food services, and production work, such as manufacturing. On the flip side, industries like healthcare, tech, and transportation are expected to experience job growth, particularly in higher-wage professions.
Several factors contribute to this shift. Firstly, the rise of generative AI technologies like ChatGPT is automating various tasks, potentially leading to the automation of up to 30 percent of hours currently worked in the US by 2030. Secondly, the continued growth of online shopping is projected to drive job growth in transportation services by 9 percent in the same timeframe. Thirdly, the aging population in America will influence spending patterns, leading to changes in demand for different job roles, such as an increased need for healthcare workers. Lastly, as automation enhances productivity, the manufacturing industry is expected to require fewer workers than before.
As the Manager of Corporate Communications at UNITEN, I understand the growing concern surrounding AI and its potential to replace human workers, especially among our young graduates entering the workforce. However, I strongly believe, rather than succumbing to fear, we must approach this transformation with a positive outlook.
And according to Associate Professor Ir. Dr. Nahrizul Adib Kadri from Faculty of Engineering, Universiti Malaya, the so-called transformation brought by AI should actually be seen as ‘a natural progression of things’.
“If we look back, the history of Malaysia’s economy is proof to the ever-changing nature of work. We have transitioned from relying on commodity production in the 1960s to becoming the manufacturing hub of Southeast Asia in the 1980s; and as we entered the 21st century, we embraced a service-based industry, just like other developed nations. Throughout this journey, the demand for specific jobs and skills has gone up and down, leading to adaptations in the workforce, thus affecting everyone.
“Similarly, AI is paving the way for the next era of the job market. Instead of viewing it as a threat, we should see it as an opportunity to enhance our skills and embrace new career prospects. Of course, automation may replace certain repetitive tasks, but let’s not forget that it can also open areas for innovation and creativity. By leveraging AI as a tool to enhance our capabilities, we can amplify our value propositions and remain competitive in the job market of the future.
“History has also shown that while certain job roles might disappear, new ones will definitely emerge. Just as the rise of technology and automation created jobs we could have never envisioned in the past; the future will bring opportunities that we cannot yet foresee. The key lies in embracing lifelong learning, by unlearning and re-learning, to stay adaptable in an ever-changing work landscape,” he explained.
The impact of AI and automation on the job market is clearly inevitable, and the McKinsey report’s findings may raise concerns, but they should also serve as a wake-up call for us to prepare for the future. As we have done in the past, adapting to change and proactively developing our skills will be crucial in thriving amid technological advancements of our future.
Let us remember that the true power of AI lies not in its ability to replace us, but in its potential to empower each of us to provide more impact in our professional and personal lives.
And most importantly, let us worry less, shall we? C’est la vie, the French would say.
The author is Manager, Corporate Communications Department, Office of Vice-Chancellor, Universiti Tenaga Nasional (UNITEN). She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org