Policy response will determine if opportunities of AI in the workplace outweigh the risks

A new OECD report Using AI in the Workplace sets out to sheds light on the multifaceted impact of AI adoption, emphasising both its benefits and potential risksA new OECD report Using AI in the Workplace sets out to sheds light on the multifaceted impact of AI adoption, emphasising both its benefits and potential risks. According to the report, AI can bring significant benefits to the workplace. In the OECD AI surveys of employers and workers, four in five workers say that AI improved their performance at work and three in five say that it increased their enjoyment of work. But the benefits of AI depend on addressing the associated risks. Taking the effect of AI into account, occupations at highest risk of automation account for about 27 percent of employment in OECD countries.

Workers also express concerns around increased work intensity, the collection and use of data, and increasing inequality. To support the adoption of trustworthy AI in the workplace, this policy paper identifies the main risks that need to be addressed when using AI in the workplace. It identifies the main policy gaps and offers possible policy avenues specific to labour markets.

The report concludes that as AI continues to reshape workplaces, policymakers, businesses, and workers must collaborate. Monitoring AI’s impact, fostering skill development, and ensuring fairness are essential steps toward an AI-powered future that benefits all.


AI benefits: enhancing work and productivity

The report underscores several positive aspects of AI integration:

  1. Performance Boost: Many workers report improved job performance and satisfaction due to AI tools. From automating routine tasks to enhancing decision-making, AI contributes to overall work efficiency.
  2. Quality Jobs: Contrary to fears of job displacement, AI can create high-quality jobs. By augmenting human capabilities, it enables workers to focus on complex, value-added tasks.
  3. Productivity Gains: AI streamlines processes, reduces errors, and accelerates productivity. Organizations that embrace AI effectively are likely to see substantial gains.


Navigating labour market risks

However, the report acknowledges the challenges:

  1. Job Displacement: While AI enhances certain roles, it also poses risks of job displacement. Repetitive tasks susceptible to automation may see workforce reductions.
  2. Wage Inequality: Unequal access to AI benefits could exacerbate wage disparities. Ensuring equitable distribution of AI advantages is crucial.
  3. Work Intensity: Some workers experience increased work intensity due to AI demands. Balancing workloads and addressing stress is essential.


Policy responses: a call for proactive measures

To harness AI’s potential while mitigating risks, the report recommends:

  1. Skills Development: Upskilling and reskilling programs are vital. Workers need adaptable skills to thrive in AI-driven environments.
  2. Social Dialogue: Engaging workers, employers, and policymakers in discussions about AI’s impact fosters informed decision-making.
  3. Regulatory Updates: Labour laws must evolve to address AI-related challenges. Protections for workers and fair practices are paramount.


Reducing inequality

The report emphasizes that AI can either exacerbate or alleviate inequality:

  1. Gender Bias: Efforts to minimize gender bias in AI algorithms are crucial. Fair representation and equal opportunities matter.
  2. Inclusive Design: AI systems should be designed with diverse user needs in mind. Accessibility and inclusivity drive positive outcomes.