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Biden order spotlights AI labor concerns

The recently released “Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence” contains provisions focused specifically on addressing rising concerns over AI’s impacts on the future of work.

While stopping short of immediate policy actions, President Joe Biden’s order brings workforce issues squarely into view and calls for the examination of potential workforce disruptions.

Economists increasingly warn that accelerating adoption of AI and automation puts millions of jobs at risk over the next decade, disproportionately impacting less educated workers.

The order acknowledges these worries around job losses and growing inequality. It commits the federal government to protecting workers’ rights while expanding efforts aimed at equipping workers with the skills needed to complement an AI-powered economy.

Specifically, the key workforce-related directives in the order include:

  • A mandated report detailing the expected labor market effects of advancing AI systems.
  • An order for the Department of Labor (DOL) to analyze how existing programs and potential legislation could aid workers displaced by the adoption of AI, including unemployment insurance, workforce development initiatives to reskill affected groups, and proposals to strengthen AI-related education and training.
  • An order for the DOL to develop principles and best practices to assist employers in mitigating AI’s potential harms. These recommendations are to be developed with input from labor unions and other outside advisors.
  • A request for guidance from the DOL on monitoring compliance with Fair Labor Standards Act provisions in instances when AI systems are used to assign, monitor, evaluate or augment human work.
  • Prioritization of STEM education funding through the National Science Foundation aimed at fostering a diverse and AI-capable next generation workforce.

Agency reports and recommendations are due within the next 180 days. For now, the order signals continued federal scrutiny into the workforce impacts of AI.

Other areas of the Executive Order focused on safety and security; promoting innovation and competition; advancing equity and civil rights; protecting consumers, patients, passengers, and students; protecting privacy; advancing federal government use of AI; and strengthening the U.S.’s leadership in global AI research and governance.