Artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a powerful force that is reshaping the world in various ways. One of the most significant areas it will affect in the short-to-medium term is the workforce. As AI algorithms become more advanced, they are increasingly capable of imitating real-world systems and replacing repetitive tasks. While jobs in customer service, retail, and clerical roles are commonly identified as being at risk, the latest advances in AI have shown that even creative work and white-collar professions are not immune to its impact. However, an important aspect often overlooked in discussions about AI’s effect on jobs is the geographical distribution of its impact.
The Displacement of Jobs
Current trends and projections suggest that the first and most affected by AI-driven job displacement will be people in developing countries, where a higher proportion of jobs involve repetitive or manual tasks. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, emerging technologies and digitalization are key factors driving job displacement. Clerical or secretarial roles, such as office clerks, bank tellers, postal service clerks, cashiers, and data entry clerks, are expected to be the fastest declining occupations. AI tools are capable of performing these tasks efficiently and tirelessly without being affected by personal issues or mental strain, making them highly attractive to employers.
Contrary to initial assumptions, it is expected that more people in developing countries will lose their jobs to AI compared to those in developed countries. The success of each nation in navigating this transition effectively will depend on how well it can adapt its workforce and economy. The United Nations International Telecommunication Union has developed an ICT development index to measure and compare countries’ performance in information and communication technologies. Developed countries typically rank higher on this index, indicating their better adaptability to emerging technologies such as AI. In contrast, developing countries rank lower, which suggests they may struggle to cope with the adoption of AI technologies.
The World Bank has classified countries based on their income and regions, revealing that developing countries are among the lowest earners. In these countries, employing people is generally easier due to lower wages, intense competition, and less regulatory support for employees. The World Bank estimates that around 84% of the world’s working-age population resides in developing countries. Similarly, a report from the International Labor Organization indicates that 73% of the world’s workers are in developing countries, while only 14% are in advanced industrial countries. Consequently, the competition for clerical jobs that are not replaced by AI in developing countries will become far more intense than what most people can handle.
As a consequence of these factors, developing countries are likely to face an employer-ruled ecosystem. These countries have a higher concentration of jobs that can be replaced or displaced by AI, such as call center jobs, and lack the necessary financial resources and skills to effectively implement AI tools. The cost and affordability of AI programs and algorithms will further accelerate this process in certain regions. While experts acknowledge that AI will create new job opportunities, it is crucial to recognize that not all countries will be well-equipped to make the transition when the time comes.
Artificial intelligence is poised to have a profound impact on the global workforce. While the most vulnerable jobs are often identified as repetitive or clerical roles, the geographical dimension of AI’s effect is a critical aspect that often goes unnoticed. Developing countries, where a significant portion of jobs involve manual or repetitive tasks, are expected to be the first and most affected by job displacement. The ability of each nation to adapt to this change will depend on its level of technological development and capacity to implement AI effectively. As such, it is crucial for policymakers and stakeholders to address the disparities in income, regulation, and technological readiness to ensure a more equitable and inclusive transition into an AI-driven future.