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A Westminster Hall debate on the ‘Potential impact of artificial intelligence on the labour market’ is scheduled for Wednesday 26 April 2023, from 2:30-4pm

The debate will be led by Mick Whitley MP.

What is artificial intelligence?

There is no single, universally-agreed definition of artificial intelligence (AI). It can broadly be thought of as technologies that enable computers to simulate elements of human intelligence, such as perception, learning and reasoning. To achieve this, AI systems rely upon large data sets from which they can decipher patterns and correlations, thereby enabling the system to ‘learn’ how to predict / anticipate future events. It does this by creating rules – algorithms – in response to the data, turning it into actionable information.

There are multiple subcategories of AI, such as machine learning and deep learning, as well as narrow AI and general (‘strong’) AI.

White Paper setting out the Government’s approach to AI regulation was published in March 2023, informed by the feedback received in its public consultation in 2022

Regulation of workplace AI

Currently there are no UK regulations specifically relating to the use of AI at work. However, there are a number of areas of data protection and employment law which are potentially relevant.

Article 22(1) of the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) gives data subjects the right not to be subject to solely automated decision making without human oversight, if it has signficant effects on their lives. Thge only exceptions are where required by a contract or by law, or where the individual has given explicit consent.

Part 5 of the Equality Act 2010 prohibits work related discrimination on the basis of any protected characteristics such as sex, age, race or disability. This applies to both discrimination in-work and also discrimination about who to offer or not offer work to during recruitment. Where management decisions affecting people’s employment are made or informed by AI, there is therefore a risk of discrimination if there are biases in the AI model.

Impact of AI on employment levels in the UK

A range of bodies have reported on the potential impact of AI on employment within the UK.

The then Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy commissioned PWC to undertake research on the potential impact of AI on the UK labour market. The report, published in October 2021  found that 7% of jobs were at high risk of being automated in the next 5 years, rising to 30% after 20 years. However, the research also reported that many jobs would be created through the AI-related productivity and economic growth. The report concludes that the most plausible assumption is that the long-term impact of AI on employment levels in the UK is broadly neutral, but that the potential impact is unclear.

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