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Clerical work likely primary victim of generative AI, UN study finds

A United Nations study indicated that while the rise of generative AI is not likely to completely replace most job roles, it will instead automate specific tasks within them.

Generative AI probably will not take over most people's jobs entirely but will instead automate a portion of their duties, freeing them up to do other tasks, a U.N. study said on Monday.

It warned, however, that clerical work would likely be the hardest hit, potentially hitting female employment harder, given women's over-representation in this sector, especially in wealthier countries.

An explosion of interest in generative AI and its chatbot applications has sparked fears over job destruction, similar to those that emerged when the moving assembly line was introduced in the early 1900s and after mainframe computers in the 1950s.

However, the study produced by the International Labour Organization concludes that: "Most jobs and industries are only partially exposed to automation and are thus more likely to be complemented rather than substituted by AI."

This means that "the most important impact of the technology is likely to be of augmenting work", it adds.


The occupation likely to be most affected by GenAI - capable of generating text, images, sounds, animation, 3D models and other data - is clerical work, where about a quarter of tasks are highly exposed to potential automation, the study says.

But most other professions, like managers and sales workers, are only marginally exposed, it said.

Still, the U.N. agency's report warned that the impact of generative AI on affected workers could still be "brutal".

"Therefore, for policymakers, our study should not read as a calming voice, but rather as a call for harnessing policy to address the technological changes that are upon us," it said.

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