AI to transform jobs in Asia Pacific


SINGAPORE — There’s no doubt that the advent of broadly-available Artificial Intelligence (AI) offers businesses the prospect of increased productivity and accelerated innovation, whilst also enabling society to help solve some of its toughest and most persistent challenges — disease, famine, climate control, and natural disasters.

AI is already delivering tangible economic benefits for many organizations across Asia Pacific. For example, leading global container shipping company OOCL reports that applying AI to their business is already saving them $10 million annually, while Apollo Hospitals in India is using AI to help predict heart disease among its patients.

While the benefits of AI are undeniable, it is a disrupter especially when it comes to the displacement of jobs. The ramifications of AI on the workforce is a regular topic of discussion among CEOs and government leaders across Asia Pacific.

That said, it is also pertinent to examine the far-reaching implication that AI brings to the workforce. Will the social disruptions that AI can potentially create ultimately overshadow its benefits?

The Evolution of Jobs in the AI-Shaped Future

To put things in perspective: large-scale disruption is a challenge with every industrial revolution. Technology will always have profound implications on the creation, elimination, or evolution of jobs. For example, just a few years ago, it was common for offices to have a pool of typists. Clearly, this role is no longer relevant in today’s modern office, thanks to the proliferation of personal computing. The advent of AI will reshape jobs in a similar way.

Microsoft recently partnered with leading technology advisory firm IDC to assess the digital transformation landscape across the region. Titled “Unlocking the Economic Impact of Digital Transformation in Asia Pacific”, the study surveyed 1,560 business and IT leaders from 15 Asia Pacific economies. It showed that 85% of jobs in Asia Pacific will be transformed in the next three years.

Diving deeper into the results, the respondents said that over 50% of jobs will be redeployed to a new position and/or retrained and upskilled for digital transformation. What’s interesting is that the study shows that 26% of jobs will be newly created roles from digital transformation, which will offset the 27% of jobs that will he outsourced or automated. In other words, the overall workforce effect will be broadly neutral.

These are clear indications that how businesses organize work, how people find employment and the skills people need to prepare for the workforce are changing dramatically. These changes are likely to accelerate in the decade ahead.

As AI continues to transform the nature of work, education, skills, and training will have to transform as well in order to ensure that people are prepared for the jobs of the future and businesses have access to the talent they need to succeed. And as traditional models of employment transform, there will be a need to modernize legal frameworks to recognize new ways of working, provide adequate worker protections, and maintain social safety nets.