Published: 18:44, June 14, 2023 | Updated: 19:56, June 14, 2023
AI skills a must to thrive in changing labor market
By Wang Yuke

Dicky Yuen, director of IT recruitment firm Venturenix, says that over 800,000 positions are expected to be affected to varying degrees by AI in the next five years during a press conference on June 14, 2023. (WANG YUKE / CHINA DAILY)

As artificial intelligence prompts an overhaul across the labor market, a local information technology recruitment firm is urging companies and education institutions to hone employers’ digital skills and groom more IT and coding professionals to ease the AI talent crunch.

IT and digital talent recruitment firm Venturenix said in its 2023 Hong Kong Salary Guide that the number of AI-related job positions has more than doubled compared to last year, rising by 80 percent each quarter, with an average salary increase of 20 percent.

Venturenix director Dicky Yuen said that many local companies have had to compromise on their requirements or expectations for applicants by accepting a lower barrier for entry into IT or AI jobs

Requirements for AI know-how is not confined to IT positions, but puts the onus on a range of industries to raise their standard by improving efficiency. The study finds that some positions that previously did not require IT experience now need a basic grasp of coding.

The research team used web crawling technology to search major job platforms and found that the number of positions requiring knowledge of Generative AI or ChatGPT-related technologies jumped from less than 10 in 2022 to over 400 this year.

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Venturenix said it expected that over 800,000 positions could be affected to varying degrees in the next five years by AI's advance. The World Economic Forum’s earlier said that 44 percent of workers’ skills will be disrupted globally in the next five years with 83 million roles to vanish.

Riding the AI or ChatGPT tide, local companies have added related skills, such as mastery of GPT technology, to job descriptions in recruitment campaigns, Venturenix said, adding that supply in the labor market is more than 3,000 shy of the real need for IT professionals.

The firm reports that currently nearly 4,000 IT professionals are seeking jobs, with an average 7,400 related positions available, resulting in four out of 10 jobs going unfilled.

Non-organic grooming

Venturenix director Dicky Yuen said that many local companies have had to compromise on their requirements or expectations for applicants by accepting a lower barrier for entry into IT or AI jobs.

“In the past three to five years, educational background or career experience was a must box to tick for workers applying for IT positions, whereas in recent years passing an IT-related technical test would suffice,” he said.

Many companies are having to face reality by reducing seniority requirements for these types of employees.

“For example, a position that originally required 12 years of seniority is now reduced to six years, and a position that originally required six years of experience can now be entered after just three years. This has led to a situation of ‘forcing growth’ and a significant increase in salaries for these types of positions within just two years,” Yuen said, adding that this was not organic and sustainable.

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“At present, when companies recruit employees, they only require employees to know how to use ChatGPT and Midjourney. However, I believe that in the near future, knowing how to write code (such as Python, RESTful API) and combining it with AI tools such as plug-ins or API connections of ChatGPT, to connect the company’s data or work procedures, will become a necessary skill for clerical work, just like knowing how to use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint today,” Yuen said.  

He said employees who understand AI and can better integrate AI into work processes will greatly improve work efficiency and have higher salary increases and promotion opportunities than employees who do not understand it.

Those in non-technical positions who have little inkling about AI or are totally unaware of programming code, could be among the first cohorts to lose their jobs in the next few years, he said.

In the most extreme scenario, Venturenix estimated that up to 25 percent of jobs, or more than 800,000 people, will face unemployment or need to make a major shift or transition in their careers, based on Hong Kong’s population of 3.3 million employed individuals.

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Jobs in the greatest danger include data entry clerks, administrative staff, and customer service representatives, Yuen predicted, adding that Hong Kong’s civil service and service industries will also not be immune from job cuts.

Venturenix suggested that besides employees actively improving qualifications to retain jobs and striving for better treatment, companies and universities should do more to cultivate in-demand AI professionals.

“In addition to promoting employees’ digital transformation, management should also improve their digital skills to better deploy for future development. Schools should actively introduce and learn new skills,” Yuen said.

“Resisting artificial intelligence may lead to people being left behind. In an era of smartphones, there is no reason to still learn to use traditional feature phones. Courses cannot fall behind the times, otherwise students will graduate and become unemployed,” he added.