Well-educated workers, at greater risk of being replaced by automation

Contrary to popular belief, white-collar workers are the ones most at risk of losing their job due to automation.

Artificial Intelligence is a crucial technology to boost the growth of companies and countries. In Latin America, companies recognize the importance of investing in this area to increase productivity.

Also, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has indicated that AI would contribute to the growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the region.

Machine vs Human: A Modern Story

At the same time that automation generates development possibilities, it raises concerns about the jobs that will be replaced in the process. The leaders of the technology sector have touched on this issue until exhaustion.

Elon Musk said humans are at risk of becoming mere domestic cats if they don’t decide to become cyborgs. In turn, Bill Gates has proposed that robots that replace humans pay the taxes that substituted workers would pay.

The fear of automation is not new. At the beginning of the 19th century, English artisans destroyed the machinery that threatened their jobs. Industrialization allowed factories to hire low-skilled workers to do the job that a master craftsman took days to finish.

At present, the analyzes usually indicate that the jobs that require less specialization as those most exposed to automation. However, a study by the Brookings Institution differs from this idea.

High-educated people are five times more exposed than blue-collar workers to be replaced by machines

The most educated and prepared workers are those who will run the risk of being replaced by AI in the future, according to Brookings forecasts. To reach this conclusion, Standford researcher Michael Webb designed a new method of analysis, comparing job descriptions with patent descriptions.

People with a university degree run four times the risk of being replaced by AI than workers who only have a high school degree. Also, workers in production lines are at risk.

Mark Muro, one of the study’s authors, recalled that many roles related to mathematics, science, technology, and business are related to tasks such as maximizing energy efficiency or running an advertising campaign to reduce the cost per click. “And this is the kind of thing that AI does best.”

Despite the risks present, other specialists point out that there is no need to worry, such as economist at Oxford University Carl Benedikt Frey.

Frey, who specializes in technology and employment, mentioned that AI would be a support for people who do this type of work, and it hardly will replace them.

The analyst Muro also pointed out that companies have already invested heavily in such well-educated workers so that they would consult them about their future.

“I’m a little less worried about white-collar types than the less educated who are trapped in dead-end services or the gig economy.”

Mark Muro, Brookings Institution