It is essential to understand how the most modern technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), will transform gender gaps in the labor market and become a tool to reduce gender inequalities. The IDB, OECD, and Unesco joined forces to prepare a report, “The Effects of AI on Women’s Working Lives,” collaborating with Cambridge’s Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy. This report considers how AI may affect women, their opportunities in the job market, job search mechanisms, training and qualifications, and possibilities for professional growth. It highlights two main themes: entering the labor force and changing skill requirements.
Entering the labor force
Labor intermediation systems can become more efficient with technologies such as AI. Public and private systems can use AI to ensure more efficient matching mechanisms. They can also make them less biased, that is, less discriminatory. In Active Labor Market Policies, policies that aim to reduce unemployment, the Public Employment Services (PES) offer labor intermediation systems to improve the match quality between job seekers and vacancies. AI can add value by enhancing these systems’ matching algorithms or applicant segmentation to facilitate the assistance offered.
AI tools in Public Employment Services labor intermediation systems can be beneficial for women:
- As public services, they can promote greater inclusion for groups who experience discrimination in the labor market, such as women.
- AI makes it possible to create algorithms that address specific dimensions relevant to women candidates. An example is whether the employee accepts telework or whether transportation is available (Urquidi & Ortega, 2020).
Access to modern labor intermediation services is essential for workers to obtain good opportunities. This is especially true for women, who already face significant barriers. In LAC, Paraguay implemented ParaEmpleo, and Colombia, Mexico and Peru are considering AI technologies to support jobseekers (Urquidi & Ortega, 2020).
But it is essential to highlight AI does not automactically generate less discriminatory systems. Artificial intelligence needs to be permanently monitored so that algorithms remain neutral and transparent. The IDB, for example, has an initiative called FairLAC, which supports countries in the region in addressing this issue.
Changing skills requirements
AI is changing the labor market, bringing new skill demands for workers of the future. Women need to be part of this transformation. Some technologies can automate various employee tasks, mainly routine or repetitive ones. However, AI-driven automation can solve even more complex activities that usually require human administration. The IDB report, The Future of Work in Latin America and the Caribbean, analyses data from four countries in Latin America on the risk of automation, including AI-based.
In Bolivia, 30% of women are at high risk of having their jobs automated compared to 10% of men. The dangers of automation in El Salvador, by comparison, are roughly equal (29% of women versus 31% of men), which is also the case in Colombia and Chile.
New tasks and occupations
On the other hand, new technologies can lead to opportunities and the creation of new tasks and occupations. Researchers at the IDB are working on mapping the overall balance of the effects of AI technologies. With the automatization and creation of some professions, what seems clear is that workers will need to adapt quickly. Acquiring the skills for these new or emerging occupations will be vital to having quality jobs. Women need to be a fundamental part of these processes. If the adoption of AI technology is not carried out prudently, we risk widening gender gaps in the workforce (Ripani et al., 2017).
We need more women at the forefront of AI design and development in this sense. We need to encourage women and girls to follow STEM careers to achieve this. Also, guarantee that women will be able to adapt to the new demands of the labor markets. This process involves strengthening women and girls with technical and soft skills. It is essential to consider AI’s impacts in different contexts and countries. Diverse labor markets, technology adoption speed, and cultures influence the impact of AI.
The future of work is already here
At the IDB, one of our priorities in supporting the sustainable and inclusive development of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean is strengthening the digital economy, as stated in our Vision 2025. AI is a reality and an undeniable factor to consider as a part of this. We need to join forces to get the best out of this tool. Governments, the private sector, civil society, and development organizations need to engage in these issues.