Emerging Technologies

These are the jobs that AI can’t replace

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There is expected to be a 30% rise in jobs for agricultural professionals in the coming five years. Image: Unsplash/karsten_wuerth

Ian Shine
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  • AI is unlikely to be able to replace jobs requiring human skills such as judgement, creativity, physical dexterity and emotional intelligence.
  • As a result, the highest job growth in 2023-2027 is expected to be for agricultural equipment operators, drivers of heavy trucks and buses, and vocational education teachers, according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023.
  • The skills most in demand from employers over the next five years will include analytical thinking, empathy and active listening, and leadership and social influence, according to the report.

I’ve just asked ChatGPT this question: “What jobs will AI be unable to replace?”

Within seconds it has whizzed out a 275-word answer. When I asked it to edit its answer down to under 50 words, it was a lot slower. A lot, lot slower.

This perhaps proves some of the points ChatGPT made in its original answer, when it told me that AI will be unable to replace:

  • Jobs that require human judgement and decision-making
  • Jobs that require complex and nuanced communication.

It also said that AI will not displace jobs that require:

  • Social and emotional intelligence
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Physical dexterity and mobility.

Given that ChatGPT and other forms of generative AI create their output by synthesizing what they find on the internet, it’s no surprise that its answer crosses over with some of the findings in the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023, an in-depth analysis of how jobs and skills will evolve over the next five years – written by humans.

The jobs that are safest from AI

Surveys conducted for the Future of Jobs Report suggest that the highest job growth in 2023-2027 will be for agricultural equipment operators, for drivers of heavy trucks and buses, and for vocational education teachers. Mechanics and machinery repairers follow in fourth place.

Graphs showing the top roles ordered by largest net job growth,
The highest job growth in 2023-2027 is expected to be for agricultural equipment operators. Image: World Economic Forum, Future of Jobs Report 2023

This suggests that one of the human brain’s biggest advantages over AI is the fact that it is attached to a real human body. Indeed, expectations that physical and manual work could be displaced by machines have decreased, and companies surveyed for the report have revised down their estimates for further automation – they think 42% of tasks could be automated by 2027, compared with predictions in the Future of Jobs Report 2020 that 47% could go this way by 2025.


How is the World Economic Forum ensuring the responsible use of technology?

Jobs in agriculture

There is expected to be a 30% rise in jobs for agricultural professionals in the coming five years, according to the 2023 report. That’s an additional 3 million roles.

This is only partly because workers in this area are far less likely to be impacted by generative AI and Large Language Models such as ChatGPT. Other reasons include shortening supply chains, with more small farms selling directly to consumers rather than through intermediaries.

The rising use of agricultural technologies and increasing investments in climate change adaptation are also leading to an expansion in agriculture jobs. But so-called “climate-smart agriculture” – which addresses the interlinked challenges of food security and accelerating climate change – is not just increasing employment, it is also boosting living standards and environmental outcomes, as well as food security and crop resilience, according to the World Bank.


Jobs in education

Jobs growth of 10% is expected in the education industry by 2027, according to surveys for the Future of Jobs Report 2023. This could mean another 3 million jobs in vocational education and higher education.

“This growth is particularly prevalent in non-G20 countries where it is expected to be about 50% higher than in G20 countries,” the report says.

High uptake of education and workforce development technologies is seen as one big driver of job creation. The other is increasing efforts by organizations to close skills gaps as AI and other technologies rewrite the rules on the capabilities that employees and employers need.

The skills most in demand are – as ChatGPT mentioned – analytical and creative thinking. Other skills near the top of employers’ wish lists are:

  • Empathy and active listening
  • Motivation and self-awareness
  • Leadership and social influence
  • Talent management
  • Service orientation and customer service.

These are all highly human skills that remain outside the skill set of AI.

Figure showing the evolving skills landscape, 2023-2027.
Businesses are scaling up training programmes as skills requirements are disrupted by AI. Image: World Economic Forum, Future of Jobs Report 2023

Supply-chain and logistics jobs

As in the agriculture sector, a shift towards the localization of supply chains is expected to be one of the largest gross job creators in the logistics industry, The Future of Jobs Report 2023 points out, however, that it could also lead to some job losses, as could supply shortages, rising input costs and a global economic slowdown – at least in the short term.

“The new economic geography created by shifting supply chains and a greater focus on resilience over efficiency is expected to create net job growth, with wins for economies in Asia and the Middle East especially,” says World Economic Forum Managing Director Saadia Zahidi.

A net increase of 2 million jobs, or 12.5% of the workforce, is expected for the supply-chain and logistics sector, according to surveys for the 2023 report. Trends in this area are being impacted by shortages of heavy truck and lorry drivers in mid-2022. But relatively low expectations about the impact of autonomous vehicles on job creation, as shown in the chart below, also suggest that the profession of driver is not likely to disappear in the near future.

Statistic showing different technologies and their impact on job creation.
There are relatively low expectations about the impact of autonomous vehicles on job creation. Image: World Economic Forum, Future of Jobs Report 2023

The white-collar employee’s future is more threatened than the Uber driver, because we still don’t have self-driving cars, but AI can certainly write reports,” Martin Ford, author of Rule of the Robots: How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Everything, told the BBC.

“In many cases, more educated workers are going to be threatened more than the least educated workers. Think of the person that works cleaning hotel rooms – it's really hard to automate that job.”

Overall, 50% of organizations ultimately expect AI to create job growth, while only 25% see it leading to job losses, the Forum report says.

When I asked ChatGPT for its take on whether more jobs will be created or lost because of AI, this is what it said:

“The impact of AI on job creation or loss is a complex and multifaceted issue, and the answer will depend on various factors such as the specific industry, type of work, and the level of implementation and adoption of AI technology.”

Perhaps it’s time for ChatGPT to go on one of those reskilling courses covering analytical thinking.

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Emerging TechnologiesJobs and the Future of Work
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