Business Maverick

Business Maverick

UK firms offer wage premium for AI workers in bid for growth

UK firms offer wage premium for AI workers in bid for growth
Back office staff work at computers in the control centre at JPMorgan Chase & Co offices in Bournemouth, Dorset on Monday, 8 August 2022. (Photo: Jason Alden)

UK employers are offering a 14% wage premium for jobs that require skills in artificial intelligence as booming demand for the technology reshapes the labour market.

Postings for AI roles have risen almost four times faster than the average for other jobs over the last decade, according to research by consulting firm PwC. It analysed around 500 million advertisements across 15 countries and found nine AI openings in the UK for each 1,000 vacancies. That outpaced the global growth rate.

The report also found that the productivity boost seen in sectors like financial services, information technology or professional services, which are more impacted by AI, is more pronounced in the UK.

“Increased use of AI could turn the dial on productivity in the UK,” said Mehdi Sahneh, senior economist at PwC UK. “With the gap widening in recent years, AI could be the missing piece of the UK’s productivity puzzle, bringing a boost to the economy, wages, and living standards.”

UK executives, politicians and economists are searching for a growth fix after one of the worst productivity performances in the developed world since the 2008-09 financial crisis. At the same time, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is trying to position the country as a global leader on steering the rollout of the technology. The government organised a summit on AI safety last year and is now co-hosting a major gathering in South Korea this week.

Surging demand is pushing up wages as companies compete for a limited pool of workers with technical skills like machine learning. A high wage premium relative to equivalent jobs without AI skills suggests that the talent pool is relatively small.

In the UK, premiums can be as high as 27% for lawyers with AI skills or 58% for database designers and administrators. Globally, the US’s 25% average wage premium is the largest out of all countries analysed, with the UK coming in second. 

“Although on the surface lower wage premiums may sound less favourable, all else being equal, they suggest a balance between labour supply and demand, and could potentially foster greater AI adoption and innovation over the long term,” Sahneh said.

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