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Many low-wage service jobs could be eliminated by AI within 7 years, report says

AI could replace 30% of work hours by 2030
AI could replace 30% of work hours by 2030, new research finds 06:19

Low-wage jobs in the food industry and in customer service are among the positions most likely to be eliminated by generative AI by 2030, according to a new McKinsey report

In fact, jobs that make under $38,000 a year are 14 times as likely to be eliminated by generative AI technology as other types of roles, according to Kweilin Ellingrud, director of the McKinsey Global Institute.

"[Jobs] that used to be in-person and have some physical interactive element are shifting to online, remote, and we're seeing a lot more delivery jobs as well," Ellingrud told CBS News. 

These jobs will be replaced by devices like fast food kiosks, which enable facilities to operate a single site with far fewer employees. Customer service operations could undergo a transformation, with AI-powered chatbots creating quick, personalized responses to complex customer questions. Because generative AI can quickly retrieve data for a specific customer, it operates much faster than human sales representatives.

But it's not just low-wage jobs: across the entire labor market, activities that account for 30% of hours worked across the U.S. could become automated by 2030, the report indicates. To reach that 30% mark, 12 million workers in professions with shrinking demand may need to change jobs within the next seven years.

While that may seem like a huge number, about 9 million people have shifted jobs since the pandemic, a rate that is 50% higher than before the COVID health crisis.

On the other hand, most higher-wage jobs that require a college degree are also likely to be altered by AI, but not completely eliminated or automated, Ellingrud said. Such fields include STEM, creative industries and business or legal professions. 

For instance, a graphic designer could generate a first draft faster and better with the help of AI, and then use their specialized skills to spend their time in a more valuable way. A nurse could spend less time entering medications into a computer and spend more time with their patients. 

"A lot of jobs will be made more meaningful; you'll be able to spend more time doing the things your training and skills have enabled you to uniquely do," Ellingrud said. 

Demand for emotional skills

Generative AI allows skilled workers to be more productive, but employees will need to adapt to these changes by reskilling — learning how to learn new things.

"We will have more jobs in the future, and those jobs will be higher wage jobs but they will require higher levels of education," she added.

Two crucial types of skills that will be in demand are technological and social and emotional skills.

Tech knowledge doesn't necessarily mean coding, but workers must be able to interact with emerging technologies to get their job done more efficiently, Ellingrud said. Social and emotional skills, such as showing empathy and genuinely responding to human reactions, are critical because "that's one of the few things that cannot be replicated by a machine or AI as well," she said.

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