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Of the Indian workforce’s love-hate relationship with AI

Many employees believe their companies will be out of business in under 10 years due to advances in tech, says a report

Hollywood writers went on strike over fears that AI would threaten their jobs.
Hollywood writers went on strike over fears that AI would threaten their jobs. (AFP)

The rapid rise of artificial intelligence in the workplace and its increasing ability to perform tasks that have traditionally required human skills have come as a sudden jolt for many. Today, there is a looming threat of an uncertain future in workplaces and an urgency to upskill. Now, a new report reveals that about 1 in 4 CEOs and half of the workforce in India believe that their companies will be out of business in less than 10 years.

The report, Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2023: India perspective, by PwC, involving 2,502 Indian employees, explored their expectations, apprehensions and aspirations. With the emergence of generative artificial intelligence (AI), over 60% of employees believe the skills needed to do their jobs will undergo significant changes in the next five years. There is unmissable concern about the increase in AI-fuelled job losses. About one-third of Indian employees feel AI would negatively impact their work and more than 20% feel that it would take over their job, the report states.

Also read: Can AI help employees strike a better work-life balance?

The fear stems from tech advances that have occurred this year. Within the first six months of 2023, a new range of generative AI tools had entered different fields of work, from making music, and generating images and synthetic voices to writing articles and stories, even coding—tasks that needed creativity and cognitive skills. “To be brutally honest, we had a hierarchy of things that technology could do, and we felt comfortable saying things like creative work, professional work, emotional intelligence would be hard for machines to ever do. Now that’s all been upended,” says Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI, in an August New York Times article titled In Reversal Because of A.I., Office Jobs Are Now More at Risk.

One of the biggest shutdowns of the year centred around this concern. Hollywood screenwriters went on a nearly five-month strike, protesting the use of AI in scriptwriting along with demands for better pay and work conditions. The industry-stopping walkout came to an end in late September with a new contract that included protection against the use of AI.

As AI went mainstream this year, job posts mentioning it have seen their applications grow by 2.1x in India over the last two years, LinkedIn’s Future of Work report, reveals. It also predicts that in seven years, there will be a significant shift in job skill requirements as AI disrupts workplaces. Currently, AI-related positions are 17% growing faster than non-AI related ones.

AI’s disruption is also worrying the Gen Z people nearly 63% of Gen Z students are concerned about how AI will impact traditional job opportunities, a report, titled Unveiling Tomorrow: Empowering Gen Z in a Changing World, by BML Munjal University (BMU) reveals. Currently, about 44% of Gen Z students are worried about uncertainties gripping the job market and potential job displacement.

However, there are two sides to the coin. While the concerns about AI’s dominance have been brewing, many people are also excited to embrace the change. More than 50% of respondents, in the PwC’s report said that AI will help them increase their productivity at work and almost half said AI will bring with it opportunities to learn new skills. Earlier this year, in a LinkedIn report, over 70% of millennials and Gen X professionals surveyed felt that AI will help them focus on tasks that excite them, a Press Trust of India report states. Moreover, over 70% of Gen Z are eager and curious to adapt to the world of AI.

Many employees also realize that AI can clear their task list hugely. In Microsoft’s Work Trend Index 2023 report, in which 31,000 people were surveyed from 31 countries, almost half said they would delegate work to AI to reduce their workload.

As more people are prioritising work-life balance and keen to not make work the centre of their lives, they are looking at AI as a way to slow things down. Over 60% of surveyed employees admitted that AI would increase job satisfaction and engagement, a new study by workforce management software provider UKG reveals. In the survey, involving 4,000 employees in 10 countries, respondents said they want to try AI to improve their quality of life but expressed concerns about transparency.

Even among employees who are eager to use AI in the workplace, many are worried about not having appropriate information about how it’s being used. For instance, in the UKG report, more than half of employees said they have no idea how their companies are integrating AI. Moreover, 3 out of 4 employees said they would be more accepting of AI if their company was more transparent about how AI can improve their workflow.

Meanwhile, some experts also consider AI’s capabilities to be overhyped. “Generative AI is right in the peak of inflated expectations,” Gartner analyst Dave Micko told AP. “There’s massive claims by vendors and producers of generative AI around its capabilities, its ability to deliver those capabilities.”

Also read: AI and its carbon footprint: How much water does ChatGPT consume?



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