Press release

9 Jul 2024

More than two out of three employees in Europe fear job losses due to artificial intelligence

Zurich, 9 July 2024 Artificial intelligence has taken the economy by storm and is on the rise - but to what extent is this new technology already shaping the everyday working lives of companies and employees in Europe and how ready are they for the AI trans-formation process?

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Related topics AI
  • Almost three quarters (73%) of employees in European companies have already had practical experience with artificial intelligence
  • Most employees in Europe use AI in their private lives (38%), relatively few for their work (12%) Almost a quarter of respondents use AI in both areas (23%)
  • Respondents are not satisfied with the level of AI training and opportunities they receive at work
  • In Switzerland (57%), Germany (59%) and the Netherlands (64%), concerns about job losses due to AI are comparatively low

Zurich, 9 July 2024 Artificial intelligence has taken the economy by storm and is on the rise - but to what extent is this new technology already shaping the everyday working lives of companies and employees in Europe and how ready are they for the AI transformation process? Although some employees are ready to experiment with AI, others are still reluctant: almost three quarters of all respondents (73%) have already had practical experience with the new technology. However, most of them use AI in their private lives (38%), with far fewer respondents stating that they use AI at work (12%). The remaining respondents (23%) have experience with AI in both areas.

In terms of countries, the proportion of employees who already use AI in practice is highest in Spain (84%), followed by Switzerland (82%) and Italy (77%). At the other end of the scale are the Netherlands (66%), Germany (67%) and Austria (69%). Across all countries surveyed, men (75%) are more likely to have experience with AI applications than women (70%). There are also differences between the hierarchy levels: More than 84% of executives say they use or have used AI applications, compared to only 67% of non-executives.

These are the results of the first EY European AI Barometer, for which 4,741 employees in nine European countries were surveyed. In addition to Switzerland, these countries include Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal.

Job losses due to AI - concern lowest in Switzerland

When asked whether the use of AI will lead to job losses, the opinions of respondents in the European countries differ. Overall, slightly more than two out of three respondents (68%) said that they expect fewer employees to be needed as AI systems become more established and the range of applications increases

In Switzerland (57%), Germany (59%) and the Netherlands (64%), concerns about the loss of jobs due to AI are comparatively low. This percentage is particularly high in Portugal (80%), Spain (78%), Italy (76%) and Belgium (74%). Adrian Ott, Chief AI Officer at EY in Switzerland, says: "As a country with a high density of well-qualified workers and a lower number of routine jobs, the use of AI tends to be perceived as an opportunity rather than a threat."

There is a general consensus among respondents in the nine countries analyzed when it comes to the influence of AI on their own work: more than one in two (53%) state that AI applications will influence their own work - or are already doing so. In Italy and Switzerland (both 59%), the figure is almost six in ten. The proportion is also above average in the Netherlands (57%), Austria and Germany (56%). In contrast, it is below average in France (47%), Belgium (48%) and Spain and Portugal (49% each).

Most respondents expect AI to take over parts of their work (65%), with some assuming that they will hand over part of their workload to AI in the near future (14%).

However, an interesting dichotomy emerges in that a not insignificant proportion of respondents believe it is unlikely that AI will take over parts of their work (35%). And of those who expect to hand over some of their workload, the vast majority do not see this happening in the foreseeable future. Adrian Ott says: "The effects of AI are not yet tangible in all areas. Regulatory complexity and initial failures in the use of AI can lead to mistrust of the technology. It is important that companies and employees prepare themselves for dealing with the new technologies and closely monitor upcoming AI developments so that they are not suddenly overwhelmed by the advances."

Employees dissatisfied with AI training

According to the survey results, not enough respondents are satisfied with the level of AI training they receive at work. Switzerland leads the way in terms of training provision, with 36% of employees surveyed saying that their employer provides sufficient training. In other countries, employers clearly need to do much better, particularly in Portugal, where only 14% of employees are satisfied with the current level of AI training they receive. Most employees want live training and workshops (43%), followed by online courses (38%).

In many cases, employees are taking the initiative to take advantage of self-study opportunities, whether personal, professional or a combination of both. Self-learning in the field of AI is most widespread in Switzerland (60%), Italy (54%) and Spain (54%). Employees in Germany are the least likely to train themselves (37%). Roger Spichiger, AI Leader Financial Services at EY in Switzerland, says: "The fact that many of those surveyed are continuing their education privately shows the current assessment of the importance of AI skills for the future labor market. At the same time, companies should see this as an opportunity to position themselves as attractive employers by investing in training programs."

AI is already helping companies to save costs and increase profits

Despite the challenges, the benefits of using AI are already evident, particularly in terms of cost savings: Across Europe, almost half of managers (45%) say that they have been able to save costs or increase profits - or both - by using AI. Measured against these two criteria, the use of AI has so far been most successful in Switzerland, where 81% of managers have had positive experiences with the technology. The proportion of confident managers in Spain (60%) and Italy (58%) is also above average. In contrast, respondents in Austria, the Netherlands and Germany (34% each) are less impressed.

Is investment in AI a top priority for companies? Across Europe, almost four in ten respondents (38%) say "yes". Employees in Switzerland (57%), Spain (54%), Italy (48%) and France (46%) are most likely to agree that AI will be a top investment priority in the coming year. Respondents in Austria (22%) and Germany (25%) are significantly less likely to share this opinion.

Adrian Ott says: "In the overall context of the Swiss figures, it is fair to say that Switzerland is taking the potential of AI seriously and, as an innovative high-price country with a strong export orientation, does not want to miss out on the global connection. The focus is not on the fear of losing one's own job, but on the innovative power and opportunities that will arise from AI technologies in the near future."

What are the future possibilities of AI? Around 82% of respondents from the financial services and technology, media and telecommunications sectors are optimistic about the development opportunities of the technology. A clear majority of respondents from the energy (80%), advanced manufacturing and mobility (77%), agriculture (73%) and insurance (72%) sectors also share this opinion.

EY European AI Barometer

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