Could AI replace jobs in the Caribbean?

The exciting prospects of AI advancement cast a grim shadow on the future of formal jobs in the Caribbean & Latin America

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS — The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) could potentially result in fewer formal jobs in the Caribbean, which in turn could cause job informality to skyrocket and leave thousands of people more vulnerable to external shocks.

This is the concern raised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in a recent report in which it highlighted a need for the region’s decision-makers to take care to avoid this outcome.

Job informality leaves workers extremely vulnerability to external shocks, and more susceptible to poverty.

“New concerns are emerging over the impact of technological progress on the labour market and the risk of increased informality,” said the ECLAC in its recent report, “Halfway to 2030 in Latin America and the Caribbean: progress and recommendations for acceleration.”

“This could result from the destruction of formal jobs in traditional sectors, insufficient creation of formal jobs in new sectors or the emergence of new jobs based on skills that most workers do not necessarily possess.”

Job informality is already at a dangerously high level in the region on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Significant improvements in job formality had been steady up until 2020, when the pandemic’s impact on tourism caused thousands of workers to lose their jobs.

This development, and efforts to reverse it, emphasize the urgency in ensuring formal jobs in the Caribbean are secured.

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    Increases in digital work can spell trouble for Caribbean jobs

    The ECLAC noted that an increase in digital jobs is already challenging the Caribbean labour market in terms of the availability of jobs.

    “The growing prevalence of work mediated by digital platforms has created major challenges to achieving decent employment, owing to job insecurity, low pay and underemployment,” the report noted.

    jobs in Dominica

    The BPO industry employs thousands of workers in Jamaica alone, and even more throughout the Caribbean.

    This projection can be especially concerning for the services industry, such as business process outsourcing (BPO), which is a major source of employment in Jamaica.

    Likewise, businesses that rely on the global digital economy are also at risk, with the ECLAC noting a marked increase in such businesses following the pandemic.

    If such jobs are replaced by AI, as many tech experts around the world believe they could be, it could mean thousands of job losses in the Caribbean.

    However, the UN organization acknowledged that there is “great potential” for modern, digital services in LAC.

    As such, its concerns about AI came with stringent caution.

    “It is very important to ensure that the creation of skills and new jobs outpaces the destruction of jobs owing to technological change,” the ECLAC noted.

    “To this end, training policies and private job creation policies must find coordination and consensus mechanisms.”

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