American multinational tech giant, the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), will halt hiring for roles that can be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) in the near future.

According to Bloomberg, Arvind Krishna, IBM’s Chief executive, said the firm’s hiring for back-office functions such as human resources will be suspended or slowed.

This could potentially result in a 30 per cent workforce reduction through AI and automation within the next five years, leading to approximately 7,800 jobs lost among the roughly 26,000 affected workers.

Bloomberg reports that this workforce strategy is one of the largest announced in response to rapidly advancing technology.

IBM, one of the world’s largest tech companies, is taking steps to automate mundane tasks such as employment verification letters and moving employees between departments.

However, certain human resource functions, such as evaluating workforce composition and productivity, are unlikely to be replaced for the next decade.

IBM currently employs around 260,000 workers and continues to hire for software development and customer-facing roles.

Concerns over the impact of generative AI on the country’s workforce in Singapore

Addressing the sweeping changes as a result of the integration of new technologies like AI into workplace, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said that Singapore must expect more human tasks to be taken over by machines.

“Some existing skills will no longer be so useful, but new skills will be needed. And that’s why we must continually reskill and upskill.”

Opposition parties in Singapore have also raised concerns over the impact of generative AI on the country’s workforce.

The Workers’ Party has questioned whether generative AI will create new jobs to replace those that may be lost and whether knowledge workers should be worried about these developments.

Pritam Singh, Leader of the Opposition concerned whether enough is being done to position workers to benefit from AI and similar innovations, rather than becoming victims of it.

“How can we use such innovations to raise worker productivity and pay, and help our SMEs to grow and thrive?” the WP’s Secretary General asked in the May Day message.

Dr Chee Soon Juan, Secretary General of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), has expressed concern about the ability of Singaporean children to cope with the rapid changes brought about by AI, citing problems with the current education system.

He warned that today AI is not just a super-fast computer that’s able to retrieve information in mere seconds, but also about programs and technology that “learn, teach themselves, imagine, create, compose, and even lie”.

Dr. Chee pointed out that he had warned decades ago about the inadequacy of Singapore’s education system in preparing children for changes in the world, yet very little has changed since then.

Despite this, he emphasised that Singaporeans must learn to deal with the changes brought about by AI.

Lim Tean, leader of the Peoples Voice (PV) party, has criticised the People’s Action Party (PAP) for exacerbating the imbalance and unfairness in the labour market as reflected in the job figures for 2022 and the first quarter of 2023.

Lim Tean argued that the most urgent task is to address the imbalance and unfairness for Singaporean workers.

He stated that this imbalance and unfairness have led to grave concerns about job security, with almost half of the Singaporean workforce worrying about job insecurity, according to Randstadt’s 2023 survey.

He believed that it is futile to believe that AI can improve the situation, as a worried worker cannot be a productive worker.

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