Recent headlines highlighting the threat of artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential impact on job losses have caused alarm. Reports indicate that AI has already caused disruptions and job losses at major companies like IBM and Chegg. Additionally, Goldman Sachs predicts that 300 million jobs will be lost or degraded due to AI. AI’s impact is already evident, with a report stating that nearly 4,000 jobs were eliminated in May alone.
Before the pandemic, the loss of high-paying manufacturing jobs to overseas markets was a concern. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the vulnerabilities in our global supply chains, which were highly dependent on countries that may not share our values of democracy and human rights. This realization prompted a shift towards a more self-sufficient and secure nation.
To address these challenges and promote national competitiveness, several acts were passed between 2021 and 2022. These include the American Rescue Plan Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act. These initiatives aim to fund projects such as semiconductor manufacturing and renewable energy, which are crucial for creating higher-paying jobs. However, the specter of AI looms over these endeavors.
A report from the National Bureau of Economic Research highlights the impact of automation on wage inequality. It found that a significant portion of wage declines in industries experiencing rapid automation can be attributed to changes in the wage structure. The consequences of these changes are evident in the increased wage inequality in the United States.
Even if AI only provides marginal gains in worker productivity, businesses will still implement it. This will likely result in greater wage inequality. The key question becomes whether the market can absorb the influx of newly displaced workers. Additionally, as the number of senior citizens continues to rise, there may be an increased demand for jobs not requiring a strong background in science and technology. However, the wages for these trades may suffer when the market becomes saturated with job seekers.
It is important to consider that not everyone is suited for physically demanding labor. Thus, it is crucial to ensure that other types of jobs are well-paying, including those in the high-touch sector such as social workers, teachers, healthcare workers, and at-home senior care providers.
As we move forward, it is essential for our leaders to develop comprehensive strategies to address the impending impact of AI on jobs. Affordable secondary education and temporary support for displaced workers should be among the priorities, along with a focus on reducing wage inequality. It is a pressing matter that requires proactive planning and action from policymakers.
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