Women more exposed to jobs impact of AI, Government research finds

‘AI is here to stay,’ Minister for Enterprise Peter Burke says as Government attempts to quantify impact of AI

Women in the Republic are expected to be more exposed to the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on jobs due to the over-representation of men in roles and industries considered less likely to be affected by the technology’s adoption, analysis by two Government departments suggests.

The research, part of a series of three papers by the Department of Finance and the Department of Enterprise published on Tuesday, is the Government’s first attempt to assess the benefits and potential economic pitfalls of the rapidly evolving technology.

While the timeline for AI adoption and its integration within production processes remains uncertain, the research suggests that one-third of the workforce here are currently working in roles considered “highly exposed” to AI.

Where historic advances in automation technologies were focused on replacing repetitive manual tasks, the research assumes AI tools will eventually be able to replace certain “cognitive” skills.


About 33 per cent of workers – including those in the legal profession, medicine, librarians and others – are considered to be working in highly exposed industries where AI could complement their existing roles, according to the report.

However, some 30 per cent – including accountants, communication operators, administrators and secretarial workers among others – are working in areas with “weak complementarity”, where AI could eventually replace jobs.

Women are slightly more exposed to this impact, according to the research, largely because men are over-represented in industries like construction and agriculture where the jobs impact is likely to be weaker.

The research, based on figures from 2021 before the rise of generative AI models like ChatGPT, stresses that there are a number of important questions around the economic impact of AI, including whether most of the technology’s benefits will accrue to workers or to capital, and whether it will raise productivity and living standards or produce unemployment.

These are open questions, departmental officials stressed, and more research is required.

Speaking to reporters at Government Buildings on Tuesday afternoon, Minister for Finance Michael McGrath said the reports are “an assessment at a point in time”. While they do not take account of recent developments in generative AI, the “principles that are clearly set out in these reports remain the same and equally apply”, he said.

“I do think that the pace of change is accelerating all the time. Both the opportunities and the risks that are set out in this report, I think have been amplified even since the data which we were relying on was in existence. Certainly it is the case that there is a risk to certain parts of the labour market,” Mr McGrath said.

Minister for Enterprise Peter Burke said “AI is here to stay” and the Government needs to regulate it accordingly. “But we also have to ensure we get innovative opportunities out of AI and that’s what we’re trying to do, which is a fine balancing act,” Mr Burke said.

Published last summer, a progress report from the Government’s National Artificial Intelligence Strategy stated the ongoing evolution of AI would likely lead to “many unpredictable challenges” for government.

The latest research also points to potential policy conflicts between AI adoption and other policy goals including those around climate action and the stability of the financial sector.

Ian Curran

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times