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Senator seeks tech GI Bill as AI replaces jobs

A new study reveals that women are twice as likely to lose jobs to AI than men. Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell is seeking an AI training bill similar to the GI Bill.

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U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) wants the government to fund an AI education bill -- akin to the GI Bill -- to provide training to those whose jobs are replaced by AI. There's no formal legislation at this point, nor are there estimates for how much the program would cost.

Cantwell is calling for legislation that will help "educate for the future, given the impacts of AI," she said in a statement Tuesday, following a forum on AI in Seattle.

Cantwell added that she plans to seek enough funding to provide training for at least 1 million people, especially in apprenticeship programs, so they can "earn and learn."

Cantwell chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, the leading AI legislation committee. As committee chair, she has the ability to move any AI education legislation forward.

A bill such as this might benefit those most at risk for losing their jobs to AI: Women. According to a new study, women might need the most help moving to new jobs because of the effects generative AI could have on customer-facing, administrative assistant or support roles, which are often filled by women.

The Geneva-based International Labor Organization (ILO), an agency of the United Nations, found that approximately 5.5% of jobs in high-income countries have high automation potential. But in low-income countries, the risk 0.4% of jobs were at risk.

But women are at risk of being disproportionately affected, at about twice the risk of males, the study reported. Female-dominated occupations at greater risk from generative AI include administrative assistants, accounting and booking clerks, bank tellers and cashiers. 

AI replaces, complements jobs

Overall, AI is more likely to complement jobs than overtake them, according to the ILO. The researchers studied the potential of AI to either automate or augment work and found that AI-enabled augmentation is likely to affect more than 13% of jobs. The report defined augmentation as partial automation "while leaving time for other duties," it stated.

The researchers focused on the capabilities of OpenAI's large language model, GPT-4, including chatbots that can retrieve private content such as documents and emails, natural language functions, summary preparation and content generation.

[When war ended, people asked,] 'What's the economy of the future going to be?' And we gave them the GI Bill, and they created it.
Maria Cantwell, U.S. Senator (D-Wash)

The ILO stated the point of the study is to help governments and businesses manage the changes brought by AI. It also noted optimistically that the job market is continually changing. Twenty years ago, for instance, there were no social media managers and few web designers, it stated.

Cantwell said she believes there will be a growing demand for skilled workers -- so much so that the nation will need a program similar to the post-World War II GI Bill, which paid the education costs for returning service members.

During World War II, Cantwell said, women worked in factories to keep up U.S. production. When the war ended, people asked, "'What's the economy of the future going to be?' And we gave them the GI Bill, and they created it," she said.

Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies for TechTarget Editorial. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter. 

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