On this year’s Workers’ Day, the Justice and Peace Commission emphasises the critical need to address the implications of generative AI technologies on the workplace and workers’ livelihoods. With forecasts indicating that AI adoption may affect up to 60% of jobs in advanced economies such as Malta’s[1], the Commission highlights the urgency for society and policymakers to come up with proactive measures to ensure that technological progress benefits all, safeguarding against disproportionate advantages for a select few while potentially disadvantaging many.

The Commission states that recent studies[2] have shown the transformative potential of generative AI across various sectors. For instance, in retail, generative AI is projected to add an estimated €300 billion in global value by enhancing marketing and customer interactions. Similarly, in banking and life sciences, these technologies offer opportunities for efficiency gains and significant advancements in healthcare and medical innovation.

However, alongside these advancements arise concerns regarding fair distribution and workers’ well-being. As Pope Francis mentioned in the 57th World Day of Peace message: “The remarkable advances in new information technologies, particularly in the digital sphere, thus offer exciting opportunities and grave risks, with serious implications for the pursuit of justice and harmony among peoples.”[3]

Without proactive support measures such as job transition assistance and skill development programmes, the adoption of generative AI could increase job insecurity, income inequality, and marginalisation of vulnerable workforce segments. A recent study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suggests that AI will likely worsen overall inequality, with higher-income workers and investors benefiting disproportionately from AI productivity gains.  

Despite these challenges, the Justice and Peace Commission argues that negative impacts are not inevitable. Without further delay, the government, employers, unions, civil society organisations and the Church have the opportunity and responsibility of putting forward and implementing decisions that ensure that AI advancements lead to a better standard of living and enable workers and their families to flourish to their full potential. So that these new technologies are broadly and equitably shared, this entails robust regulation, targeted training initiatives, and ongoing evaluation of wage adequacy and inequalities at both local and EU levels.

The Commission believes that the Church also needs to discern its contribution towards a just AI transition at the workplace.  While safeguarding workers’ rights, the Church can collaborate with NGOs to creatively harness AI for the common good. It can also provide AI literacy classes through its institutions such as schools, organisations, parishes and religious communities. In its advocacy, the Church must remain focused on addressing key questions regarding the distribution of benefits and power: Who is benefiting from the changes brought about by these technologies? To what extent do they allow more wealth and more power to accumulate in ever fewer hands to the detriment of those workers who are already disempowered and struggling to make ends meet? 

The Justice and Peace Commission affirms that technology should be viewed not as a threat but as an opportunity for positive change. Through a joint effort, stakeholders can shape the outcomes of the AI transition to improve the working lives of all workers, especially those in precarious and low-income positions. The Commission reaffirms its commitment to ensuring that AI advancements do not compromise workers’ dignity, employment rights, or fair wages.

Regarding this topic, the seminar AI dominance: A blessing or curse?” will be held on the 9th May at 6:30pm at Dar Ħanin Samaritan in Santa Venera. This seminar is organised by the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Malta with the support of the Justice and Peace Commission and APS Bank. For further details and registration kindly email cappfmalta@gmail.com.

[1]  https://imf.org/en/Blogs/Articles/2024/01/14/ai-will-transform-the-global-economy-lets-make-sure-it-benefits-humanity

[2] https://mckinsey.com/capabilities/mckinsey-digital/our-insights/the-economic-potential-of-generative-ai-the-next-productivity-frontier#work-and-productivity

[3] https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2023/12/14/231214a.html