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Employment opportunities and challenges in the era of new productivity: From AI's perspective

Gai Keke , Yu Jing

A recruitment event at Heilongjiang University in Harbin, March 26, 2024. /CFP
A recruitment event at Heilongjiang University in Harbin, March 26, 2024. /CFP

A recruitment event at Heilongjiang University in Harbin, March 26, 2024. /CFP

Editor's note:  Gai Keke is an associate professor at the School of Cyberspace and Science and Technology, Beijing Institute of Technology, and Yu Jing is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Information Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

"New Quality Productive Forces" has been underscored by the Two Sessions as an emerging concept and driving force of economic growth and transformation. A group of advanced technologies have been playing a significant role in such upgrades, including artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and quantum computing. Innovations triggered by these advanced technologies may imply both opportunities and challenges in the realm of employment.

The breakthrough of Artificial Intelligence Generated Content (AIGC) technology has set off another wave of leapfrogging and application revolution in AI technology. This transformation has brought new energy as well as new opportunities to the employment sector.

First, we can observe that the demand for AI professionals is increasing, along with the exponential increment of AI technology and applications, across positions such as algorithm engineers, data scientists, data analysts, system architects, and machine learning engineers. Strengthening and improving AI solutions is becoming a common demand for most businesses and the driving force behind enhancing competitiveness. Many observers believe that AI is turning into a core factor for determining the market position.

Second, the rise of AI technology and applications has introduced more opportunities for flexible positions, such as part-time, freelance, and remote work. This trend will facilitate people to achieve a better balance between work and life. People may also concentrate on more innovative work rather than spending time on routine tasks.

Third, AI-based transformations are creating new industries with more employment choices. Emerging industries, e.g., intelligent driving and healthcare, will lead people onto new career paths. It is believed that AI technology can bring opportunities for job upgrading to many people and can assist practitioners enhance their job capabilities in a shorter time through AI application training.

However, new opportunities also come with challenges that require attention and proactive strategies.

First of all, it will be a challenge for most job seekers or employees to keep upskilling and reskilling in order to match the requirements of the job market. Even though the demand for AI professionals is burgeoning, the need for employees with diverse skill sets is also increasing. Employees need to continuously strengthen their knowledge scaffold from various fields and enhance the scope of knowledge in order to adapt to the employment demands of the era of the AI application explosion.

In addition, AI upgrades may have a significant impact on practitioners in many traditional industries. Since the enhancement of production efficiency by AI, the demand for many technical/skilled workers will decrease. This will lead to a gradual reduction or even disappearance of many technical or skilled jobs. In the long run, this is not healthy for the development of many industries. Humans will still need to master skills, methodologies and concepts, maintaining the ability to think critically and innovate, even though AI applications can or may replace humans in many cases.

Finally, AI-based applications/solutions also raise issues of security and privacy in the employment sector. This poses challenges not only to the operations of businesses but also sets higher requirements for practitioners in relevant positions, who need to have a stronger awareness and skills. Moreover, for those applications where AI is integrated with other technologies, e.g., blockchain, practitioners need to keep a higher-level technical skill to deal with complex application environments and potential unknown cyber threats. This presents challenges for practitioners in choosing their careers and businesses in seeking talents.

In summary, the upgrade revolution of AI technology plays a vital role in promoting the development of China's economy. Balancing the opportunities and challenges in the employment sector brought by AI technology is key to achieving the high-quality and rapid development of China's economy.

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