Artificial intelligence and related technologies, such as robots, drones and autonomous vehicles, could create about 90 million additional jobs over the next two decades, according to a new report released by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers on Tuesday in Tianjin.
About 26 percent of existing jobs in China could be automated over the next 20 years, but this is projected to be more than offset by job creation of 38 percent, giving an estimated net gain of 12 percent.
Services and construction could see the largest net increases in jobs, with a net gain of 29 percent and 23 percent, respectively, by 2037 in China, offset by estimated net job losses of around 10 percent in agriculture.
"We expect the sectors benefiting most from AI and robotics to be those such as healthcare, that combine strong underlying demand growth with a relatively high propensity to see benefits from application of these technologies," said John Hawksworth, lead author of the report and chief economist of PwC UK on the sidelines of the Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2018, or Summer Davos Forum.
"For governments around the world, the challenge is to maximize the benefits from these technologies, including continuing to invest heavily in the development of world-class AI skills, while mitigating the costs to displaced workers through retraining programs and a stronger social safety net, funded from the proceeds of increased economic growth. Only in this way can the potential benefits from AI and related technologies be spread as widely as possible across society." Hawksworth said.
The report also warns there is likely to be significant disruption to existing business models in all parts of the economy, as already seen in sectors like media, entertainment, finance and retail.
James Chang, China financial services consulting leader of PwC China, said as China becomes more innovative, Chinese industrial employment is likely to shift from lower value, labor-intensive production to higher value roles, including those involved in the manufacture of AI-enabled equipment for export as well as to meet rising domestic demand.
"Although our findings suggest that the long-term net effect of AI on jobs will be positive for China, the transition to an AI-enabled economy could see considerable disruption to current labor markets, as millions of workers need to switch careers and possibly locations. More efforts are need to increase the retraining and support for displaced workers."
This new analysis for China contrasts with PwC's earlier research suggesting a broadly neutral net impact of AI and related technologies on jobs in the UK. In that analysis, PwC found that these technologies could displace around 20 percent of existing UK jobs by 2037, but could create a similar number of additional jobs by boosting economic growth.