Yesterday morning, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addressed the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the labour market, while emphasising the UK’s role as a global leader in the development and regulation of AI.
While speaking at the event, Sunak acknowledged that AI would indeed influence the workforce but cautioned against the simplistic notion that it would merely “take people’s jobs.”
Sunak urged the public to view AI as more of a “co-pilot” in the day-to-day activities of the workplace, emphasising its potential to augment and enhance human productivity rather than replace it.
He offered an example of welfare caseworkers who are already utilising AI to support their tasks, highlighting the potential for AI to collaborate with human workers in various industries.
We will see economic prosperity and growth
“It’s important to recognise that AI doesn’t just automate and take people’s jobs,” the Prime Minister stressed. He also pointed out that technological advancements, including AI, invariably bring changes to the labour market, but they contribute to economic prosperity and growth over time.
“As with all technologies, they change our labour market,” Sunak explained, “I think over time, of course, they make our economy more prosperous, more productive. They create more growth overall, but it does mean that there are changes in the labour market.”
Sunak’s speech was not without considerations for the future of the workforce. He emphasised the importance of having a “world-class education system” to provide the best protection for the next generation of workers.
Education is key
“It’s hard to predict the exact evolution of everyone’s job,” he said, “and what we can do in government is make sure that we have a world-class education system. That is the best way that I can ensure that everyone in our country benefits from not just AI, but everything that comes our way.”
The Prime Minister’s address was part of a broader effort to position the United Kingdom as a global leader in AI technology and its regulation. He highlighted that AI was already creating new jobs and fostering innovation in various sectors. Sunak emphasised that the further development of this technology would catalyse economic growth and enhance overall productivity, while conceding that it would indeed bring about changes in the labour market.
As the UK strives to maintain its leadership in the AI field, Sunak’s remarks underscored the need to strike a balance between embracing the transformative potential of AI and ensuring that the workforce is equipped with the skills and knowledge to adapt and thrive in this evolving landscape.
Paul Holcroft, Managing Director at Croner, says:
“With technology and the use of AI expanding at an ever-increasing rate, it poses many important considerations for businesses. It could promote efficiencies and reduce costs. But it can present several risks as AI is by no means perfect. Responses produced by AI could include errors, or be inappropriate, discriminatory, or inflammatory. So, employers should consider what their stance on AI is. Will it be permitted, encouraged, or completely forbidden in the organisation.
“If a company wants to use AI, a risk assessment could be carried out to identify where the potential risks are, and whether there is anything that can be put in place as mitigation. Having a policy in place to clearly set out the company’s stance on AI will be key. Such a policy will also generally include an explanation as to what AI is and set out that employees who fail to follow it may be subject to the disciplinary procedure. Given that there are new AI products emerging all the time, this policy will need to be kept under regular review.”
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.