Generative AI puts high-wage jobs at risk

Generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) speeds up changes in the working world. It automates work steps, relieves employees of routine work, and thus creates new freedom for creative working and innovations. Furthermore, the generative offshoot of artificial intelligence has the potential to breathe new life into the slowed down productivity growth of the past decades.

A current McKinsey study expects annual productivity growth of 2.6 to 4.4 trillion US dollars thanks to GenAI technologies.

The future of knowledge work

That is ensured, among other things, by productivity leaps in professions that have so far been affected very little or not at all by automation. The biggest upheaval lies ahead in the fields of communication, monitoring, documentation, or human interaction in general. In other words, knowledge work, especially in the context of decision-making and collaboration.

GenAI generates around 75% of the estimated value in the areas of customer service, marketing and sales, software development, and research and development. That includes supporting interactions with customers, creating content, and independently generating software codes based on natural voice instructions.

However, generative AI for production and supply chain functions offers far less benefit than “conventional” discriminative AI applications. That’s because the aim of the latter is to differentiate and classify input, while GenAI, based on historical data, creates something new that is indistinguishable from human output.

According to the McKinsey study, there is especially high potential, alongside teaching professions (38%), in IT professions (31%), followed by creative professions (24%). At the level of individual tasks, opportunities arise for management activities, and applying specialist knowledge to decision-making, planning, and creative tasks.

A study by OpenAI, Open Research and the University of Pennsylvania likewise primarily sees the jobs of workers with higher education and higher pay affected. Accordingly, accountants, mathematicians, programmers, interpreters, or journalists should prepare for AI taking over at least part of their previous tasks.

And Goldman Sachs expects up to 300 million full-time jobs worldwide to be replaced by AI – with a greater impact in industrialized, emerging or developing countries. In the U.S. and Europe, up to a quarter of all jobs would be up for grabs.

Highly qualified fields of work with automation potential

Unlike previous leaps in technology, generative KI is therefore not aimed at physical processes but at complex, highly qualified, and highly paid fields of work that require employees to have a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, for example. For this group, according to the McKinsey study, GenAI has doubled the automation potential by 2030 compared to previous estimates of 28% of all activities that can theoretically be automated to 57%. In jobs that require no university degree, the automation potential rose by a factor of just 1.2 to 63%.