Highly educated high-earners at risk of being replaced by AI, BOK study says

Posted on : 2023-11-20 17:18 KST Modified on : 2023-11-20 17:18 KST
South Korea’s central bank conducted a study on AI exposure by industry and found that the top quartile of the AI exposure index accounts for around 3.98 million jobs
(Clipart Korea)
(Clipart Korea)

Doctors, accountants, asset managers and lawyers are among the vocations that are at high risk of replacement due to advances in AI technology. This means that the likelihood of job losses or lower wage growth for those fields is relatively high.

The Bank of Korea released an index of AI exposure by industry and occupation in a report titled “AI and Labor Market Changes” on Thursday. The exposure index indicates the extent to which tasks that can be performed by AI technology are concentrated in particular occupational fields through the analysis of AI-related patent information and job characteristics.

Simple labor jobs are not the only occupations with a high exposure index, but high-income professionals requiring high levels of education also have high exposure, indicating a high risk of replacement by AI.

The report estimates that the number of jobs in the top 20% of the AI exposure index is about 3.41 million, representing 12% of all jobs in South Korea, and about 3.98 million when expanded to the top 25%. It was also analyzed that the risk of being replaced by AI is greater for working men than for women, who are relatively more likely to work in face-to-face service industries.

When looking at the exposure index for standard occupational categories, the highest exposure indexes were for chemical engineering technicians, power plant operators, locomotive and electric train conductors, water and sewage treatment plant operators, recycling machine and incinerator operators, and metals and materials engineering technicians.

In more specific categories, representative high-income professions such as general practitioners, specialty physicians, accountants, asset managers, and lawyers were also found to have high exposure.

“While existing industrial robots and software perform simple repetitive tasks, AI will increasingly replace the work of highly educated professionals who recognize and analyze more complex tasks,” said Oh Sam-il, the head of the central bank’s employment analysis team.

On the other hand, occupations with high levels of face-to-face contact, such as singers, bodyguards, professors, clergy, and journalists, were found to be at lower risk of replacement with AI.

Other occupations on the lower end of the exposure index include blue-collar workers in the food sector, consumer goods rental workers, food and beverage service workers, and transportation service workers.

The Bank of Korea also stated that in addition to analyzing patent data, it also conducted a survey of experts, and concluded that investigative journalism, which utilizes human networking, and jobs that emphasize communication will not be easily replaced by AI.

By Park Soon-bin, senior staff writer

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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