International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Work, Innovation, Productivity and Skills, 1 February 2021


Remarks by Angel Gurría

Secretary-General, OECD

Paris, Monday 1 February 2021

State Secretary, distinguished speakers, dear friends,

Welcome to the first OECD International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Work, Innovation, Productivity and Skills, a week-long event that will provide a variety of opportunities to interact with leading experts and policy-makers and discuss key issues around the use of AI.

We have all seen examples of how AI can improve our lives and our work. Just look at how it has sped up drug discovery and vaccine development for COVID-19. The promise is immense, given that development, diffusion, and use of AI technologies are still at relatively low levels across our economies.

But developments in AI have also stoked fears about large-scale job losses, as it begins to transform labour markets. Think of AI-powered robots picking fruit or companies using AI recruitment tools to select candidates.

Current evidence suggests that, overall, AI has the potential to complement and augment, rather than replace, human capabilities. However, we expect that tasks within many jobs will change significantly. AI may also change the way workers interact and how they are managed, with potential risks for job quality and workers’ rights.

And these transformations come on top of the turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 45 million people are now unemployed in OECD countries, and many businesses are struggling – with the most vulnerable being hardest hit. And it could be that the worst of the economic fallout from the pandemic is still to come.

We owe it to our citizens to ensure that AI contributes to a fair transition to a brighter future of work.

This requires well-crafted policies, for re-skilling and up-skilling for example, and for supporting workers moving to different jobs. We also need safeguards to ensure a human-centric AI and that its adoption in the workplace is consistent with the OECD AI Principles. This means respecting laws, human rights and democratic values; with transparency and disclosure around AI systems; and holding those who develop the systems accountable for abiding by these principles.

AI is a rapidly unfolding reality. Looking ahead, through our project on AI in Work, Innovation, Productivity and Skills – and Germany’s generous support – we want to improve metrics on AI, and gain new insights on the diffusion of AI technologies and their implications for work, productivity, and skills. Crucially, we want to identify policies to maximise the benefit of AI while addressing its challenges.

Dear friends,

Together we can ensure that the vast potential of AI is unleashed in a people-centred way that is conducive to greater well-being in the world of work and in society at large. You can continue to count on the OECD to support all stakeholders in this endeavour.

Thank you.


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