Most workers think AI will affect their jobs: Get the latest from Data Lab.

Most workers think AI will affect their jobs. They disagree on how.

June 10, 2024

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In the past year, advanced AI exploded into society and the workplace. We can’t yet know what it will mean for the future of work. What we do know, based on ADP research, is that people on the job today hold deeply divided opinions about the technology. For every person who sees it as an opportunity, another worries about what it might mean for their job.

The ADP Research Institute survey asked nearly 35,000 private-sector workers in 18 countries what role they think AI will play in their work over the next few years. A large majority of workers worldwide say artificial intelligence will affect their jobs in the coming years.

The context

At its most basic, artificial intelligence mimics the human brain by identifying patterns and making associations. But in recent years, AI’s capabilities have expanded from simple pattern recognition to multi-platform content generation.

This technology—generative AI—has been around in less-sophisticated forms for decades, but it wasn’t until 2022 that it captured the public’s imagination with the release of inexpensive tools that created content on the fly from complex user prompts.

Generative AI hit the scene just as the job market reached inflection point. Job openings, hiring, and quits cooled over the last two years after a two-year run of heightened demand, prompting employers to reassess the pandemic-driven explosion in remote work.

Meanwhile, AI adoption sped up among employers. The share of U.S. businesses using AI grew from 3.7 percent to 5.4 percent between September 2023 and February 20241Based on national data downloaded from the BTOS downloads and documentation page. See question ID 6, response option “Yes.”—a 46 percent growth rate over five months—according to the Census Bureau Trends and Outlook Survey. That share fell to 4.2 percent in April 2024, but a Census Bureau Center for Economic Studies report expects adoption to grow to 6.6 percent by early fall.

Among employers who have deployed artificial intelligence tools in the workplace, 26.6 percent use it to perform tasks previously handled by people, a number that Census researchers expect to grow rapidly2Based on AI supplement data available from the BTOS downloads and documentation page. See question ID 3, response option “Yes.” Represents combined estimates from data collected Dec. 4, 2023, to Feb. 25, 2024.. Nearly 21 percent have trained their employees to use AI3Based on AI supplement data available from the BTOS downloads and documentation page. See question ID 7, response option “Trained current staff to use AI.” Represents combined estimates from data collected Dec. 4, 2023, to Feb. 25, 2024..

Economists believe AI’s impact on employment will depend on whether the technology augments tasks that people perform, making each worker more productive, or replaces those workers through automation. If AI boosts productivity, employers will be incentivized to hire more workers to increase revenue. If AI automates tasks, each additional worker becomes less valuable; employers will have cause to hire fewer of them.

What our research found

In our annual global survey4Conducted Sept. 22 through Oct. 24, 2023., the ADP Research Institute asked nearly 35,000 private-sector workers in 18 countries how they felt about artificial intelligence. Here’s what they told us.

  • Most workers believe AI will affect their job. Eighty-five percent of workers believe AI will impact their job in the next two to three years. Those same workers are split on whether they think AI will help them in the workplace or replace some of their job functions.
  • Location matters. Worker sentiment about AI varies regionally. Survey respondents in Latin America are the most likely to think AI will help them with their work.
  • Worker confidence plays a role. Workers who think AI will help them have more confidence in their skills and are more likely to say they have the skills necessary to advance their career.
  • Remote workers are different. They’re more likely to believe that AI will replace at least some of their existing functions.
  • Younger workers believe AI will affect them. But the younger the workers, the more evenly split they are on whether AI will help them or replace their job functions.

Most workers believe AI will affect their job

To assess opinions about AI, we asked workers: What role, if any, do you think artificial intelligence will play in your work over the next 2-3 years?

Respondents were asked to select the answer that best matched their opinion:

  • It’s going to help me save time on a daily basis
  • It will occasionally help me with certain tasks
  • It will have no impact
  • It will replace some of existing functions
  • It will replace most of my existing functions
  • I do not know enough about artificial intelligence to make a selection

Seven percent of workers say they don’t know enough about AI to form an opinion. Only 8 percent believe AI will have no impact on their job. That leaves a solid majority of 85 percent who think AI will affect their job in the next few years.

This question also tells us whether workers think AI will help them in the workplace or replace their existing functions.

Select AI question response options categorized by impact type and level

 

AI will help

AI will replace job functions

High impact

It’s going to help me save time on a daily basis

It will replace some of my existing functions

Low impact

It will occasionally help me with certain tasks

It will replace most of my existing functions

The 85 percent of workers who think AI will have an impact on their job, are deeply divided about what that impact will be. Forty-three percent think AI will help them; 42 percent think it will replace at least some of their existing functions.

Survey respondents tend to select the less-extreme option – “occasionally” instead of “daily”, and “some” instead of “most”. As such, this question tells us how strongly people feel about AI’s potential impact on their job.

Workers are 1.3 times more likely to say AI will help them occasionally rather than every day, and 2.2 times more likely to say that AI will replace some rather than most of their existing functions.

This split in global opinion mirrors one within the U.S. business community5Based on AI supplement data available from the BTOS downloads and documentation page. See question ID 13. Represents combined estimates from data collected Dec. 4, 2023, to Feb. 25, 2024.. Census Bureau data shows that 6.5 percent of businesses think AI will increase employment in the next six months; 6.1 percent think it will decrease employment.

So far, the vast majority of business that use AI—94.6 percent—say they can’t attribute any net change in employment to their use of the technology, according to Census.

Location matters

Workers in Latin America6Our survey covered Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. are more likely to say that AI will help them (55 percent) rather than replace them (28 percent). In Asia Pacific, workers split evenly over whether AI will help or replace them.

These regional comparisons are confounded by differences in the share of workers who think AI will have no impact, or who don’t know enough about AI to have an opinion.

For example, North America has a relatively small share of workers (38 percent) who believe AI will help them. Yet among workers in North America who think AI will impact their jobs, 53 percent think it will help them, a greater share than in Asia Pacific or Europe.

The difference between Latin America and other regions becomes clearer as well when we look only at workers who think AI will impact their jobs.

Worker confidence plays a role

Among workers who say AI will help them every day, 70 percent say they have the skills they need to advance their career to the next level within three years. Of those workers who say AI will replace most of their existing functions, only 45 percent think they have the skills they need.

Remote workers are more likely to believe that AI will replace at least some of their existing functions

More than half of remote workers (51 percent) say AI will replace some or most of their existing functions, only slightly greater than for on-site (50 percent) and hybrid (47 percent) workers.

These comparisons, however, fail to account for how AI sentiment by work location varies depending on the type of work.

Recent research from OpenAI and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania7Eloundou, Tyna, Sam Manning, Pamela Mishkin, and Daniel Rock. (2023). GPTs are GPTs: An Early Look at the Labor Market Impact Potential of Large Language Models. Working paper 2303.10130 (arxiv.org). showed that certain occupations are more exposed to the newest forms of generative AI.

Occupations that rely heavily on computer programming and writing have high exposure, while occupations that rely heavily on science and critical thinking are less likely to be affected. Employer-employee tension over remote work, combined with heavy media coverage of generative AI, might be making remote workers in highly exposed industries nervous about AI’s near-term impact on their job. In a follow-up post here at the Data Lab, we put this prediction to the test.

Younger workers are more likely to believe AI will affect them

While 21 percent of workers 55 and older don’t know enough about AI to say whether it will impact them, only three percent of workers 18 to 24 claimed to be unaware of the technology. This group also was the most likely to think AI will affect their jobs. Twenty percent of workers 55 and older say AI will have no impact on their job, compared to only five percent of the youngest workers.

Looking again at workers who expect AI to impact their job, the older the worker, the more likely they are to think AI will be help rather than replace them. But more than half (51 percent) of the youngest workers think it will replace some or most of their functions.

The takeaway

The people who will set a course for the future of the workforce, those Gen Z hires who currently are 27 or younger, have little doubt that artificial intelligence will change their jobs. As a group, however, they’re the most likely to disagree on what that impact will be, and whether AI will augment their labor or replace it through automation.

Gen Z workers, like young workers before them, are adaptable. But as technology develops, they’ll need an assist—training, continuing skill development, and flexible work roles—to keep up with the pace of change. Only then will they and their employers be positioned to capitalize on the full benefit of future generations of AI.