AI seen cutting worker numbers, survey by staffing company Adecco shows

An AI (Artificial Intelligence) sign is seen at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai, China July 6, 2023. REUTERS/Aly Song

ZURICH (Reuters) - Artificial intelligence will lead to many companies employing fewer people in the next five years, staffing provider Adecco Group said on Friday, in a new survey highlighting the upheaval AI will bring to the workplace.

Some 41% of senior executives expect to have smaller workforces because of AI technology, Adecco said in a report based on a survey of executives at 2,000 large companies worldwide.

Generative AI, which can create text, photos and videos in response to open-ended prompts, has spurred both hope it could eliminate repetitive tasks and fear it will make some jobs obsolete.

Tech companies, including global giants Google and Microsoft, have embarked on a wave of layoffs in recent months as they shift their focus to systems like OpenAI's ChatGPT and Google's chatbot Gemini.

The Adecco survey is one of the largest into the AI topic, and follows a 2023 World Economic Forum study which said 25% of companies expected AI to trigger job losses, while 50% expected the technology to create new roles.

But while most senior executives surveyed by Adecco say AI is a game changer, the vast majority say they have not made enough progress in adopting the technology.

"Almost all jobs are going to be impacted by AI one way or another," Adecco CEO Denis Machuel told Reuters. "AI can be a job killer and it can also be a job creator.

"Ten years ago there was this big fear many jobs are going to be destroyed by digital, when actually lots of jobs have been created by the digital world," he said. "Between jobs created by AI and jobs destroyed, we believe this is going to be balanced."

Companies needed to prepare for the disruption by training their staff to work with AI, Machuel said, rather than relying on recruiting specialists from outside.

Adecco polled businesses in the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, Canada, Australia and Singapore. Sectors covered included defence, pharma, healthcare, industry and logistics.

The Swiss company, which uses AI itself, for example in helping create resumes for clients, also sees the technology offering "massive opportunity" in its work with customers.

"We already engaged in training and up-skilling people on behalf of our clients," Machuel said. "We've sold a lot of consulting projects and the ramp-up that we see on that is quite interesting."

(Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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