Study AI’s effect on Maltese jobs, say Greens

Alternattiva Demokratika says that a national consultation document on ‘trustworthy’ AI doesn’t sufficiently address social impact of automation

A national consultation document on ‘trustworthy’ Artificial Intelligence does not sufficiently address the social impact of automation and the jobs that will be lost as a result of AI, Malta’s green party Alternattiva Demokratika said.

In one of several responses to a consultation on ethical AI frameworks, AD said it was important that Malta’s future AI policy takes into consideration the impact on society and the labour market, treating AI more holistically.

“Given that the costs of automation may be less than the cost of labour, the consideration of the impacts of taxing automation would have been helpful. This could assist the consideration of whether and to what extent this could help counter the resulting social effects which should also be studied and discussed,” Daniel Desira, AD spokesperson on the digital society, said.

In 2013, two Oxford academics, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, predicted that 47% of American jobs are at high risk of automation by the mid-2030s, after modelling the characteristics of 702 occupations and classified them according to their “susceptibility to computerisation”.

“AI brings new challenges to the sphere of worker’s rights and to government revenue. A study of how the taxation system is necessary since lack of revenue threatens public services such as education and health care, amongst other things,” Desira said.

Desira said even education and training should be rethought in order to cater for the new reality of AI in the labour market, since other jobs may be created in other areas while traditional jobs are lost in the process.

Desira also said there was a great need for strong regulation on the use of technology. “There have been various failures and a new form of discrimination this time by AI systems in other countries, such as the indiscriminate use of facial recognition software. Access to personal data is also an area of concern.”

Desira said AI could benefit other sectors, such as sectors of public service, health monitoring systems made more accessible to people with low and medium incomes, and in renewable energy and energy efficiency. “Other suitable applications of AI would be in traffic management for example with research and the eventual introduction of smart traffic lights which may prioritise buses, rendering public transport a more attractive option for daily commutes.”