The double-edged sword of AI in the job market: A global perspective

Ill-considered cost-cutting measures could inadvertently lead to diminished sales volumes
The double-edged sword of AI in the job market: A global perspective
AI in the job market: A double-edged sword

The rapid advancement of generative AI tools has sparked discussions and concerns within various industries, with many fearing that these AI innovations might spell the end of their careers as the allure of automation looms large. While the apprehension surrounding AI and job security is certainly valid, there’s a broader issue that deserves our attention – a concern that extends beyond individual livelihoods and has far-reaching implications for the global economy. The real worry, it seems, should be whether companies worldwide, in their pursuit of cost-cutting measures, inadvertently undermine their own bottom lines by diminishing the purchasing power of their customers.

A salient example that parallels this issue can be found in Lebanon. In a desperate bid to weather economic storms, many Lebanese companies seized upon the severe devaluation of the local currency to reduce salary costs in real dollar terms. At first glance, this might appear to be a shrewd financial move, albeit at the expense of the employees, but the repercussions were far-reaching and devastating. The working class, already struggling with monetary instability, found themselves unable to afford the very products and services these companies relied on for revenue. It was a self-defeating cycle – a race to the bottom that ultimately eroded the economic fabric of the nation.

Drawing parallels to the global rise of AI, we see a similar trend on a much larger scale. Companies, driven by the allure of automation’s cost savings, may unwittingly undermine their own customer base. As businesses increasingly turn to AI to replace or augment human labor, they risk a significant unintended consequence: reducing the purchasing power of the very consumer base upon which they depend for revenue.

In the short term, it may appear that AI-driven automation is a panacea for cutting operational costs. AI algorithms can streamline processes, improve efficiency, and reduce the need for human workers. However, in the long run, companies should tread cautiously as there is a symbiotic relationship between companies and workers. Given AI’s potential widespread adoption, its impact on the global workforce’s purchasing power can be substantial.

When individuals find themselves underemployed or unemployed due to AI automation, they experience a decline in disposable income. This reduction in spending power has a domino effect. Fewer people can afford to purchase goods and services, causing companies to witness a decline in sales volumes. And with AI potentially at the doorsteps of every conceivable industry, the impact it can have on the purchasing power of the workforce on a global scale is tremendous.

What distinguishes the global AI situation from Lebanon’s currency devaluation crisis is the absence of an external recourse. In Lebanon, some individuals and families managed to bypass economic challenges through remittances or foreign investments. However, in the case of AI-driven job displacement, there is no such lifeline. It’s a phenomenon that affects everyone, across borders and industries, leaving no room for external compensation to offset the reduction in purchasing power.

However, there is an alternative path that companies can and should take – one that leverages AI to augment the performance of their employees rather than replace them. Instead of viewing AI as an alternative to employees, companies should recognize it as a tool to enhance human capabilities. AI can take over repetitive and mundane tasks, allowing employees to focus on higher-level strategic thinking, creativity, relationship-building and problem-solving – aspects that machines cannot replicate. This augmentation of human potential through AI can lead to improved productivity, innovation and, ultimately, business growth.

Read more: The impact of AI on the job market in the region 

The implications of this approach are profound. By embracing AI to enhance employee performance, companies can foster a more skilled and productive workforce. Employees will become more adept at utilizing AI tools to their advantage, making them indispensable assets within the organization. This, in turn, can lead to higher job satisfaction, greater employee retention and a positive impact on the company’s overall culture and competitiveness.

As we navigate the era of AI, it’s imperative that companies and policymakers recognize the dual-edged nature of automation. While AI presents undeniable benefits in terms of efficiency and innovation, it should not come at the expense of destabilizing the very customer base that sustains businesses. Striking a balance between embracing AI-driven innovation, augmenting employee performance and safeguarding the purchasing power of consumers is essential for long-term economic sustainability.

The concerns surrounding AI’s impact on jobs are valid, but the larger issue at hand is the potential self-sabotage of companies that rely on AI-driven cost-cutting measures. As we move forward into an AI-driven future, it’s crucial to maintain a holistic perspective that considers not only the bottom line but also the vitality of the global customer base. In the race to embrace automation, let us not forget that the true measure of success lies not just in reduced costs but in the sustained prosperity of all.

Ave Tavoukjian, a veteran journalist, is co-founder and head of Corporate Communications at AIM Media Services.

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