White collar staff among first to face AI wave: report

Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson |

Accounting, marketing and human resources are among the first to be impacted by AI, a report says.
Accounting, marketing and human resources are among the first to be impacted by AI, a report says.

Jobs in finance, banking and human resources with high levels of education are most likely to be impacted early by generative artificial intelligence and will need new training to adapt, a study has found.

Occupations with the highest reliance on cognitive skills would be exposed to AI first, the report from the Future Skills Organisation released on Friday found, though roles relying on manual labour could be replaced in future.

The findings come after a report from the Tech Council found generative AI could contribute as much as $115 billion a year to Australia’s economy by 2030 if industries embraced the technology.

The Impact of Generative AI on Skills in the Workplace study, prepared with Mandala Partners, identified a range of fields likely to exposed to generative AI early.

Finance, human resources, banking and payroll services are among them, along with marketing and communications.

Other fields such as accounting, business and project management were more likely to impacted by AI, it found, than areas including information technology and engineering.

The research also found those with higher levels of education, including graduate diplomas and certificates, were more likely to be impacted by AI as the fields relied on cognitive and sensory skills in which AI excelled.

Future Skills Organisation chief executive Patrick Kidd said the results proved higher education courses, including university degrees, need to evolve quickly to prepare workers and realise the technology’s full potential.

“While the opportunity to increase our productivity is clear, we should also expect some jobs to be fundamentally changed by AI,” he said.

“AI has the potential to establish new ways of conducting business, with tasks being automated, augmented or adapted and ultimately shifting how we create, consume and engage with content.”

Mandala Partners director Tom McMahon said understanding the areas AI could affect most was important both to training employees and closing future skills gaps.

“We know that the impact of generative AI is being felt in workplaces right now so analysing this impact is critical,” he said.

“Roles spanning finance, technology and business, like banking, project management, accounting and software development are critical to the functioning and success of our economy.”

The report also found some manual, low and medium-skilled jobs would be “automated” using AI but predicted this would take longer to occur as the technology would need to become more reliable and less prone to errors.

Roles “highly exposed” to AI automation included call centre operators, receptionists and clerks, the study found.

The Tech Council predicted the use of generative AI technology in Australia could boost the economy by up to $115 billion in 2030 if businesses embraced its use, but warned it may only add $45 billion if companies adopted the technology slowly.