ILO considers AI to be complementary to human work force

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THE International Labor Organization (ILO) said Artificial Intelligence (AI) is likely to complement the labor force to boost workplace productivity rather than replace workers altogether.

In the ILO blog, Ekkehard Ernst, an expert on the future of work and AI, said technology will not be the job killer that most have feared.

“AI-based digital technologies may allow larger segments of the labor market to improve their productivity and access better-paying occupations, which in turn may help promote inclusive growth,” he said.

For developing countries, Mr. Ernst said AI cuts capital costs which will be beneficial for their economies. The downside is that since not all economies are equipped with knowledge of how to handle AI, more worker education is required to adjust to the rapid growth of digitization. New policies that focus on training and upskilling are a necessity especially as AI usage booms industry-wide.

Other efforts are needed for other lagging countries to catch up, Mr. Ernst said. “Policy-makers and social partners also need to ensure that individual companies cannot gain market dominance and so exclude others… We need to devise tax policies that level the playing field among companies, boost international cooperation and ensure social dialogue, so allowing technologies and their benefits to be shared more effectively.”

In the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Future of Jobs 2018 report, 84% of companies surveyed from the Philippines said they are likely to hire new staff who are already knowledgeable about new technology and 80% are likely to retrain their current employees. Some 74% also expect their employees to pick up necessary knowledge and skills on the job.

Asked to comment, Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP) Spokesperson Alan A. Tanjusay concurred with the ILO on the need for businesses to prepare the workforce.

“It is a threat if the workers and business owners don’t evolve, prepare, train and skill-up for it,” he said in a mobile message to BusinessWorld.

In the Philippines, AI should complement rather than replace the labor force of 41 million, according to AI Talent recruitment platform Rumarocket’s COO Shao Yong Chew, who said AI in the Philippines focuses on the jobs that human workers are less suited to perform.

“In countries like the Philippines where the cost of labor is low, it is simply not economical to develop AI that simply replaces what a human can do. AI developers are actually forced to evolve and create AI that do things a human cannot do,” he said in an email to BusinessWorld.

He added that for AI solutions to become successful, it must “(t)ake into account both human and AI’s strengths. These collaborative AI products will help design new jobs where humans and AI work together to leverage on each others strengths.”

On the part of Rumarocket, the company uses a unique recruitment algorithm that aids their clients to hire the right people and help retain them. It helps HR personnel select the right talent which would normally involve spending longer periods looking through resumes and conducting interviews of applicants. While AI was initially not embraced by the HR industry, it soon became complementary to their recruitment objectives.

“Before we implemented our recruitment AI, majority of a recruiters’ day was spent combing through resumes and judging if job applicants were fit for the role. When our recruitment AI was able to select job applicants 15% — 5200% better than a human could, many of the recruiters were terrified because they were afraid our recruitment AI would take their jobs,” Mr. Shao said.

“Our AI used objective data to select the best applicant and the recruiters used their creativity and empathy to attract the best applicants,” he added.

Mr. Tanjusay said the use of AI will determine whether it boosts productivity.

“[AI] is a new source of potential and opportunity for both workers and capitalists to raise productivity,” he said. — Gillian M. Cortez