Is AI taking our jobs? Lessons from a survey of UK business leaders

16 March 2022



The question of whether artificial intelligence (AI) is set to replace human workers in the near future has received considerable attention in recent years. As well it might. Developments in digitalisation, big data, computational power and machine learning mean that computers using AI can perform an increasing range of tasks previously thought to be the exclusive domain of humans. Up to now, research has attempted to answer this question in one of two ways, by either: (1) predicting the occupations and jobs at risk of automation based on assessment of the capabilities of AI and related technology, or (2) measuring the firm-level effects on jobs of recent investments in automation technology more broadly. In this talk, we aim to contribute to these debates by reporting on findings from a survey of business leaders looking at recent investments in new technology and specifically AI. The findings suggest that while the introduction of AI-enabled technology is more likely than other new technology to be associated with job destruction, job creation is just as likely to be reported. We will discuss the limitations and potential value of this methodology and suggest future directions for research on the topic.


Dr Wil Hunt is a Research Fellow at the Digital Futures at Work Research Centre (Digit) at the University of Sussex. He has nearly 20 years of experience carrying out sociological and policy research into work and education, including working at the Institute for Employment Studies and Warwick Institute for Employment Research. His research at Digit focuses on digitalisation and the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace. He recently completed a project looking at how Walmart used AI to massively upscale the hiring of store-level staff in response to the pandemic and is currently working on a project looking at how AI is being used in manufacturing and finance firms. Wil’s has published research on a range of issues related to work, technology, higher education and skills, in a variety of outlets including articles in peer-reviewed journals, chapters in edited volumes and research reports for policy bodies.

Dr Sudipa Sarkar is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick. Her research interests are in the fields of Labour and Development Economics with a particular focus on future of work, decent work, and social inequality. Sudipa is also a Fellow at Global Labour Organisation (GLO). Before joining University of Warwick, Sudipa has been a Marie Curie Fellow associated with Eduworks network of European Commission, and has completed her PhD in 2017 at the Department of Applied Economics, University of Salamanca, Spain. She has worked in several other research organisations and projects in the past such as Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi, Institute of Rural Management Anand, and Young Lives Project (led by Oxford University). Sudipa’s research has been published in several peer reviewed journals such as Research Policy, World Development, Development & Change, and International Journal of Manpower.

Prof. Chris Warhurst is Professor and Director of the Institute for Employment Research at the University of Warwick in the UK. He is an internationally recognised expert on job quality and skills. He is an Associate Research Fellow of SKOPE at the University of Oxford and a member of the UK’s Productivity Institute. He is/has been an expert advisor to the UK, Scottish and Australian Governments as well as to Eurofound and the OECD. He is the co-chair of ReWAGE, an ESRC-funded UK expert advisory group on building back better work and employment post-Covid. He leads one of the UK teams for Beyond 4.0, a Horizon 2020 funded, pan-EU project examining the future of work and welfare in the digital age. He has published 17 books, with the new Oxford Handbook of Job Quality (Oxford University Press) forthcoming later this year.

Related reading

Hunt, W., Sarkar, S. and Warhurst, C. (2022) Measuring the impact of AI on jobs at the organization level: Lessons from a survey of UK business leaders, Research Policy.