How AI will impact the Swiss job market
How can automation and AI create new jobs

How AI will impact the Swiss job market

The machines are coming and they want our jobs. Well, that's the fear. And although this fear has previously been confined to the realms of science fiction, it’s quickly turning into reality.

8 September 2020

Most people can comfortably see how unskilled jobs like factory work, could be replaced by automation.To a large extent this is already happening. If you look at the production line of the Tesla Model 3, about 95% of the vehicle’s body line is already automated.

However, automation is not the same as artificial intelligence (AI). Manual tasks might be easy to automate with robotics, but more complex tasks will require sophisticated AI algorithms.

The conventional wisdom is that manual roles will disappear, allowing the economy to advance and develop and create new skilled jobs. However, this vision is being challenged by AI. The huge technological advances that have been made in AI could soon replace certain skilled jobs.

The impact AI will have on the Swiss job market

What we really need to do is explore which jobs are really under threat. History has shown that whenever there is disruption in the job market, there are typically more winners than losers. These historic patterns are usually the same – there is a decline in low-paid manual jobs and a rise in high-paid skilled work. But could AI actually challenge this perception?

Success in the job market starts with education

A good education in Switzerland is considered an important requirement for most skilled work. The theory is that those who study and continue their education are less likely to become obsolete, even in the age of digitalisation. However, US think tank the Brookings Institute have come to the conclusion that high-skilled workers with university degrees, might actually be more at risk from AI.

Jobs that could be affected include private banking, engineering and marketing. However, specialists in human resources and teachers will still have a relatively secure job. What we see therefore, are winners and losers. The emergence of AI will completely restructure the Swiss job market alongside its economy.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be widescale job losses for those professions affected by AI.

AI could make skilled workers even more productive

AI has the potential to dramatically increase the productivity of skilled workers, and this should not be underestimated. A human plus a machine could be described as creating superpowers. So, you can imagine what you would get if you had a skilled worker combined with AI. Far from destroying jobs, it could be hugely empowering for those skilled workers.

How new jobs are already being created

When you look at the digital economy and the amount of new jobs it has created, it’s stunning. Nowadays, we have app developers, digital marketers and data scientists. Many of these roles did not exist 20 to 30 years ago. Yet now, they are considered the norm and are incredibly important for the functioning of our economy.

These types of jobs are set to grow in importance in the future, especially as AI continues to develop. What AI could potentially do is enhance these jobs, rather than replace them. For instance, it could speed up the development time for app developers. It may provide digital marketers powerful insights and also help them automate the publishing of their content. Meanwhile, data scientists will thrive as AI needs as much data as it can get.

The positive spillover effects from this change could impact every industry across the economy, creating a huge number of jobs.

How skilled workers can prepare for an AI future

The greatest defence against AI that skilled workers have is to remain relevant. This requires being nimble enough to adapt to this new environment by either upskilling or reskilling. A huge variety of new skilled jobs will be created with the emergence of AI. In many cases these are jobs that currently do not exist, which is all the more reason why you need to have the foresight to upskill and reskill now.

Skilled workers that do this well, will actually face a far wider set of opportunities in the future. If anything, the emergence of AI in the workplace will enrich the lives of skilled workers. But, this will only be the case for those willing to adapt and embrace the change that is coming.

Luca Semeraro

Head of Badenoch & Clark
Zurich, Switzerland

Follow Luca on LinkedIn