Artificial intelligence ‘to create 558,000 Scots jobs’

New research by PwC says artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to create a net benefit of 15,000 jobs in Scotland by 2037.

In its latest UK Economic Outlook (UKEO), the professional services firm predicts that the deployment of robotics, drones, driverless vehicles and other digital innovations aimed at “smart automation” will lead to the creation of 558,000 jobs and the displacement of 544,000 jobs.

The report says AI will create jobs as productivity and real incomes rise, and new and better products are developed.

PwC’s latest Economic Outlook projects growth in Scotland of just more than 1% in 2018, just behind UK growth of 1.3%.

In 2019, growth in Scotland will pick up to 1.3% but remain slighlty behind overall UK growth in 2019 of 1.6%, the report says.

PwC predicts this modest growth will come as a result of the continuation of subdued real consumer spending growth and the drag on business investment from ongoing economic and political uncertainty relating to Brexit negotiations.

The moderate outlook carries the assumption that the UK will avoid a “hard Brexit” where it leaves the European Union in March 2019 without any trade or transitional agreement and therefore reverts to World Trade Organisation rules.

The UKEO also expects the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee to increase interest rates by a quarter of one percent this year, with one further increase in 2019.

David Brown, government and public sector leader for PwC in Scotland, said: “The overall economic growth rates in Scotland remains below the UK’s as the construction and services industries continue to post relatively weak performances, coupled with overall reductions in investment across businesses.”

The report says that looking 10 to 20 years ahead, emerging technologies like robotics and artificial intelligence could hold the potential for faster productivity growth, with a positive net impact on employment.

PwC’s study explains that as AI capabilities allow firms to produce the same product at a lower cost, these savings will be passed on to consumers to keep companies competitive.

Households will therefore be able to buy more with their money as a result, leading to employment opportunities as firms respond to the extra demand.

As well as reducing prices, labour-saving technologies also improve the quality of existing products and enable new products to be brought to market, which also create a need for additional workers.

The net effect on this will be most positively felt in London, with 138,000 addition jobs created, or +2.3% of existing job numbers.

This is followed by the South East, with 41,000 jobs or +0.8% of existing job numbers.

Scotland is third in the list of 12 nations and regions, with 15,000 jobs or +0.5% of existing job numbers.

Euan Cameron, UK AI leader at PwC, said: “AI offers a huge potential economic boost to the UK and it’s great to see the government recognise and support the development of the sector through the AI Sector Deal.

“People are understandably worried about the impact of AI on jobs, and businesses and the government need to address these concerns head on.

“Our research highlights where the biggest impacts will be and which areas are most vulnerable, so that businesses and government can plan how best to help people develop the skills that will prepare them for the future.

“As our analysis shows, there will be winners and losers.

“It’s likely that the fourth industrial revolution will favour those with strong digital skills, as well as capabilities like creativity and teamwork which machines find it harder to replicate.

“Historically, rapid technology change has often been associated with increases in wealth and income inequality, so it’s vital that government and business works together to make sure everyone benefits from the positive benefits that AI can bring.

“These include increased productivity and consumer choice, as well as improved outcomes in those areas that matter most to people such as education to healthcare.”