Middle East workers among the least worried about Generative AI

13 July 2023 Consultancy-me.com 3 min. read

Generative AI technology has been sweeping through workplaces since the launch of ChatGPT’s latest incarnation, yet very few workers in the Middle East are worried about what it might mean for their jobs.

According to a new global survey by strategy giant Boston Consulting Group, employees in the Middle East are among the world’s least worried about the potential impact of generative AI on their workplaces, with only one in four expressing concern compared to over 40 percent in some parts of Europe.

The region’s workers also feature among the most optimistic about the emerging technology, recording a 58 percent rate of positive sentiment.

Countries with the highest optimism and greatest concerns about AI

Revealing a distinct difference in opinion between emerging and more advanced economies, the Middle East was behind only India and Brazil in terms of optimism regarding AI, while the United States, Netherlands and Japan were all at the other end of the scale, the latter at just 41 percent.

The Netherlands also recorded the highest rates of concern about AI, at 44 percent of those surveyed, followed by France and Japan. Just 14 percent of Indians held such concerns.

To compile its report, Boston Consulting Group quizzed almost 13,000 employees of all stripes across 18 countries around the world, finding a considerable rise in general optimism compared to a survey conducted on the subject five years earlier. More than half of the global respondents now express optimism toward AI as one of their two primary reactions, a 17-point jump from 2018.

Meanwhile, concern fell ten points to 30 percent, despite a series of recent warnings from experts.

The data suggests that much of that shift can be put down to exposure, with long-standing concerns as to potential job losses and responsible deployment apparently still prevailing. Notably, 62 percent of the senior leaders surveyed – those far more likely to use generative AI on a regular basis – were optimistic about the technology, compared to just 42 percent of frontline workers. Indeed, 36 percent overall believe their job is likely to be eliminated by AI.

The sentiments of leaders and frontline employees dier sharply

Contrary to such concerns – punctuated by the fact that only 14 percent of frontline staff report having undertaken any AI upskilling to date – more than 70 percent of overall respondents stated that the rewards of generative AI outweigh its risks. The vast majority however feel that AI-specific regulation is required, with just 29 percent of frontliners believing that their companies have implemented sufficient measures to ensure that AI is used in a responsible fashion.

“The level of concern among employees about the responsible use of AI is striking,” said BCG’s chief AI ethics officer Steven Mills, who co-authored the report. “Generative AI burst on the scene so abruptly in 2022 that many companies are still playing catch up, however responsible AI should be a priority for all leaders. Companies won’t achieve the full potential of Generative AI if the majority of their staff continue to doubt their employer is using AI responsibly.”

According to the firm, the results of its survey suggest that employees are now ready to accept AI in the workplace due to their growing familiarity, but only if they are comfortable that their employer is committed to doing the right thing.

The report concludes with three key strategies companies can adopt to help smooth the path; ensuring there are spaces for responsible experimentation, investing in regular upskilling, and building a responsible AI program as a priority.