Subcommittee on Artificial Intelligence discusses impact of AI on employment

The Subcommittee on Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Technologies, chaired by MK Orit Farkash Hacohen (National Unity Party), convened on Wednesday for a debate on the impact of artificial intelligence on employment. Some of the experts who attended the debate warned of a scenario in which robots and artificial intelligence replace human workers in a broad range of fields. Other experts said that with training and proper preparation for AI literacy, it will be possible to adapt to changes in the labor market and find new jobs that do not exist yet—and this will generate employment for at least 90% of the existing workers.

Subcommittee Chair MK Farkash Hacohen said, “This debate touches upon the basis of Israeli society, and we all have to prepare for it. Two schools of thought were presented in the debate: On one hand, 'The aliens have already landed, and what stands to happen in the employment world is not similar to the Industrial Revolution, and we have to prepare for a world with weighty economic ramifications, including a stipend that will be paid to each person.' On the other, there is an approach that this is a supplementary force for the workers, and just as jobs disappear, new jobs will be created. An International Monetary Fund (IMF) report warns that given Israel's level of exposure to artificial intelligence, the economy's level of readiness is not sufficient. The Government has a role and it can't watch from the sidelines. The committee calls to take action on this issue and formulate a strategy for AI so that [the Government] can have an effect on the employment world, and to prepare a national plan both for the economy's readiness in this field and for the education system's readiness."

Ifat Citroen of the Ministry of Labor said that the labor market was undergoing a change in terms of the composition of the tasks and the required skills. She said that about 60% of the workers would have to undergo training of up to a year; among about 77% of workers who undergo training, the length of training will be over a month, and employers expect that about 65% of the training courses will be based on the organization's abilities and internal infrastructure. She said that professions showing growth were the following: Drivers of trucks and heavy buses, teachers for vocational education, business development experts, university lecturers, electrotechnology engineers, digital transformation experts, sustainability experts, construction workers and experts on digital marketing and strategy. Professions in decline include the following: Data input clerks, secretaries in accounting and wage services, cashiers and tellers, production line workers, mail clerks, sales representatives in stores and customer service personnel. She said in summary that there had already been information revolutions in the past, so the changes in the market began even before generative AI, but the incorporation of technologies is expected to make work more efficient and improve the GDP.

Bank of Israel official Dr. Ella Shachar presented graphs showing that the fast development of AI could be expected to affect the labor market, employment, wages, work productivity and economic inequality. She said that policy measures were needed to prepare the economy for the expected changes in the labor market following the widespread inculcation of artificial intelligence, in order to maintain Israel's high level of competitiveness and support the workers. Dr. Shachar said that the conditions for preparing the economy for AI were advanced technological infrastructure, skilled human capital, innovation and entrepreneurship, and regulation in the AI field.

Adv. Josef Gedalyahu of the Israel Innovation Authority: “We are closely monitoring all the reports and studies in the field, and we're familiar with the challenges and the concern of loss of jobs, the need for adapting the workers' skills to a market that incorporates artificial intelligence, and the wages that will change. We want to create research that is dedicated to the Israeli economy and the education system's adaptation to the issue. Our impression, from participation in international forums, is that at present they're not focusing on loss of jobs, but more on adaptations."

Tomer Simon, Chief Scientist at Microsoft: “Without governmental intervention and exact planning, the free market will not be able to exist. The Government has to intervene so that we will become a world power in artificial intelligence. The world is going toward an economy that is based on adapted skills. Countries understand the significance of the issue and want to play a central role in the field. Microsoft has started to work with the federation of labor unions in the United States in order to understand how to look forward and train everyone for AI. The company is currently training over one million people worldwide in this field. […] The State of Israel has the ability to achieve double-digit growth in the coming years, but it all depends on governmental investment and preparation."

Daniel Schreiber, Co-Founder of Lemonade: “These are our last days as the most intelligent creatures on Earth. In nearly every cognitive function, AI approaches or surpasses human level. […] There has not been a rate of progress like this at any stage of the high-tech revolutions, and at this pace the day is not far off when it will spread everywhere and to every profession. […] The Industrial Revolution has taught us that as soon as a machine can replace a worker, it will replace him. There is no employer who will choose people over machines […]."