How will AI affect jobs in Spain?

The Local Spain
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How will AI affect jobs in Spain?
Will beer machines replace Spanish waiters any time soon? It seems unlikely. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP.

A new study into the future relationship between artificial intelligence and job losses in Spain has flipped on its head many assumptions about the types of positions at risk from new technology.


Over the last decade, concerns about the potential negative consequences of artificial intelligence (AI) have started to grow. Not only in a slightly science fiction way, with worries about AI outsmarting or even overpowering the human race, but in the more short to medium-term, at least, taking all of our jobs and making us unemployed.

In a country like Spain with relatively high unemployment rates, particularly among young people, these concerns are particularly alarming.

And in the last couple of years fears have been heightened by rapid tech development giving us software such as ChatGPT. These advances have changed our perception of the future, but also the types of jobs potentially at threat because of AI replacements.

While in the past it was always manual labour that was thought to be the most under threat of becoming irrelevant, tools like ChatGPT have put into doubt the future of the media, academia, and creative industries too. Where it was once assumed factory floor workers would lose their job, it now seems more likely a digital copywriter might.

Clearly, these are global considerations. But does the threat of AI affect different countries differently? How will it affect jobs in Spain? And will AI advances always mean that jobs are lost, or can the opposite also be true? What about the effect on wages?

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Can AI actually improve job prospects?

A recent study partly undertaken by the Bank of Spain has cast doubt on our assumptions about AI and the Spanish job market. In fact, for many of us, the conclusions may have been exactly the opposite of what we might expect.

The study, which analysed the impact of AI on employment in 15 countries in the Eurozone between 2011 and 2019, including Spain and also the United Kingdom, somewhat dispels fears that the use of new AI technologies could cripple labour markets and lead to widespread job losses.

According to the report's findings, on average, the opposite is true: employment has actually increased more in the occupations most exposed to AI, whilst also not finding any concrete statistical evidence that wages are affected by exposure to technology.


How does Spain stack up?

Spain was among countries where there the study found evidence of a positive relationship between technology and job creation. According to the report's conclusions: "We find a positive association between AI-enabled automation and changes in employment shares in the pooled sample."

"Very few countries show a decline in the employment shares of occupations more exposed to AI-enabled automation," it concludes.

OECD analysis studied by El Economista has shown that the threat of AI is real for 28 percent of jobs in Spain. That is slightly above the OECD (26.8 percent) but still lower than that of larger European economies such as Germany (28.7 percent) and Italy (30.1 percent).

Spain’s risk against AI sits slightly above France (27.4 percent) but is far behind the most AI exposed job markets, which were Hungary (36.4 percent) and Slovakia (35.7 percent).

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The jobs most at risk

Considering this new data and the rapid advancements made by software such as ChatGTP, the sorts of jobs now thought to be most at risk may surprise you.

According to another AI study cited in Antena3, AI is the biggest threat to people like: mathematicians, demographic analysts, designers, translators, journalists, legal secretaries and administrative assistants, managers, accountants and auditors, financial analysts, public relations and blockchain engineers are all at risk

The least affected jobs will be manual labour positions unlikely to be replaced by AI. These include agricultural machinery operators, athletes, chefs, cooks and caterers, masons, mechanics and manufacturers.


Younger workers and professions

Interestingly, the Banco de España report also found a correlation between the ages of employees in a sector and likelihood of AI inspired job losses.

It concluded that jobs that generally employ younger generations of workers are less likely to lose employment to tech tools: "estimates by age groups, according to which AI-enabled automation appears to be more favourable for those occupations that employ relatively younger workers."



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