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AI to cause profound job shakeup for ‘higher-wage knowledge workers’


White-collar “knowledge workers” are likely to suffer a profound career shakeup in the coming years as generative AI tools such as ChatGPT transform the global economy, according to an analysis by consulting firm McKinsey released Wednesday.

McKinsey consultants see the rise of generative AI as a net positive — potentially boosting the global economy by as much as $4.4 trillion and labor productivity growth by up to 0.6% annually through 2040.

However, generative AI will cause significant disruption in jobs held by “higher-wage knowledge workers” whose roles were “previously considered to be relatively immune to automation,” the McKinsey report said.

For example, workers who have earned a master’s degree or doctorate could see 57% of their tasks automated through generative AI, according to McKinsey’s findings — up from just 28% according to previous assessments before widespread adoption of the technology.

Workers with bachelor’s degrees could have 60% of their tasks automated — up from 36%.

By comparison, workers with a high school diploma or equivalent are expected to see an increase in the share of automated work to 64% from 51%.

“Another way to interpret this result is that generative AI will challenge the attainment of multiyear degree credentials as an indicator of skills,” the report said.


Highly educated knowledge workers could see many of their daily tasks automated, McKinsey found.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

McKinsey analysts noted that their report “does not assume that the scale of work automation equates directly to job losses.”

“Like other technologies, generative AI typically enables individual activities within occupations to be automated, not entire occupations,” the report said.

Still, the report acknowledged that “workers will need support in learning new skills, and some will change occupations” as a result of the automation.

“Generative AI may significantly affect the workforce, and the impact on specific groups and local communities could be disproportionately negative,” the report added.


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ChatGPT and other generative AI tools have exploded in popularity this year.
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The report acknowledged that generative AI “poses a variety of risks,” including widespread intellectual property infringement, the spread of misinformation and hate speech and more sophisticated cyberattacks.

The consulting firm said that “about 75% of the value” from generative AI will impact four fields, identified as customer operations, marketing and sales, software engineering, and research and development.

The banking sector is one area of the economy poised to see the largest benefit from AI. McKinsey estimated AI could boost productivity at banks by the equivalent of up to $340 billion per year.


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Experts have warned that advanced AI could lead to major job losses.
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“On top of that impact, the use of generative AI tools could also enhance customer satisfaction, improve decision making and employee experience, and decrease risks through better monitoring of fraud and risk,” the report said.

AI’s potential to cause significant job losses has emerged as a major concern of the technology’s critics.

When Elon Musk and more than 1,000 other experts called for a six-month pause in AI development earlier this year, they cited job-related upheaval as one of the most significant obstacles.

In March, a separate analysis by Goldman Sachs found that 300 million full-time jobs could be lost or altered as a result of AI advancements.



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