Op-Ed: Could AI replace jobs in the Caribbean?

Op-Ed: Could AI replace jobs in the Caribbean?

The exciting prospects of AI advancement cast a grim shadow on the future of formal jobs in the Caribbean.

Joseph Boll, Caribbean Employment Services Inc. CEO

Dear Editor,

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is exciting, to say the least. Revolutionary new technology is quickly advancing, and always improving, leaving the world to wonder just what it could become capable of next. However, some experts have already begun to raise concerns about the “dark side” of this new technology, questioning its safety and what its unbelievable capabilities could be used for.

Closer to home, the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) is likewise raising concerns, cautioning in a recent report that the region must take care not to let AI advancements lead to lower formal jobs as the region is already struggling to restore labour conditions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On the heels of that report, Caribbean Employment Services Inc. believes it would be prudent for governments, businesses, organizations and other decision-making bodies to take steps to protect formal jobs.

Caribbean Employment Services Inc. is a digital talent acquisition service that aims to connect the top talent from the Caribbean with hiring managers, HR professionals and decision-makers in companies both within the Caribbean as well as abroad. Further, it aims to provide the region’s jobseekers and those who are already employed with news and resources related to Caribbean labour. As such, it considers itself an advocate for positive labour conditions in the region.

The concept of an “AI takeover” might seem far-fetched for the Caribbean, where not many jobs are conducted online to begin with and many jobs seem as though they could only be carried out by a human. However, this is actually cause for more concern because the few, apparently stable jobs that could be replaced by AI are highly-skilled and high-earning.

For instance, countless jobs in the services sector stand to possibly be replaced by AI. If business process outsourcing (BPO) jobs were to be performed by highly-intelligent AI, as tech experts are suggesting they could, that could mean job losses in the thousands for countries like Jamaica, in which the BPO industry employs hundreds. 

A dramatic increase in jobs that rely on global digital markets since the onset of the pandemic also create more vulnerabilities, as the ECLAC likewise pointed out. Customer service, programming, software development and more could potentially be replaced in the Caribbean, depriving residents of what were once considered stable jobs providing an above-average source of income.  

However, Caribbean Employment Services Inc. does not believe there is cause for panic just yet. While the ECLAC recommends skills training—which is always a positive in developing a high-quality workforce—Caribbean Employment supports policies that would protect Caribbean workers and ensure companies that operate in the region must employ citizens and residents rather than AI.

Developments into the advancement of technology are still ongoing, and Caribbean Employment will continue to monitor closely while continuing to assist businesses and jobseekers find the best mutually-beneficial employment matches.