Global AI Talent Trends: Looking back at AI’s impact in 2019 to understand the challenges and opportunities ahead

Global AI Talent Trends-Image

As part of our ongoing research to understand the state of AI talent across the globe, we partnered with Stanford HAI to share real-time insights into AI hiring, skills and migration from our Economic Graph for its annual AI Index.

Looking at AI talent development from a global view, we see three key trends: first, accelerating demand for AI talent, and second, uneven diffusion of this AI talent across industries and countries. Third, we see some gender gaps in key AI fields.

AI hiring is rapidly growing across all countries

Analysis from our Economic Graph reveals the hiring index for all 25 countries analyzed has been consistently growing since 2015, signaling a strong acceleration in global demand for AI talent. For the top country, Singapore, the index is greater than 3x, meaning that hiring of talent with AI skills in Singapore was three times larger in 2019 than in the 2015-2016 average.* Though this growth is admittedly from a small baseline -- our research shows AI diffusion, and digital talent more generally, is still just beginning to display signs of future potential across many parts of the globe, including many developed economies -- the increase is nonetheless substantial. The trend also follows in countries not traditionally thought of as centers for AI technology adoption, such as Portugal, Greece, and Turkey.

It’s important to note that economies are still adjusting to digital intensification in general. While many companies and institutions now have access to broadband networks, the use of more advanced digital tools and applications within firms still differs greatly across countries -- even among G7 countries. Research from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows large differences even among advanced economies in firm usage of certain technologies: only 16% and 17% of firms in France or Germany, respectively, use cloud computing, while 45% of firms in Japan do.

Developing countries are making gains in AI

Globally and domestically, the labor markets for AI talent are changing at a rapid pace. While the US currently dominates across AI hiring and talent development broadly, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Singapore and India* have the highest growth rates in AI hiring, with each of the top three ranging between 2.5x - 3x its average AI hiring rate of just two years ago. Though still high at 2.2, the US ranks 8th globally.**

The US has the best education and training opportunities for AI talents and the largest supply of AI talent, but the explosive growth rates of AI hiring in other countries shows us that these markets are benefiting from the high international mobility of AI talent -- which we measured by greater than 40% for the EU), as well as making large investments in educational institutions and talent development programs to grow digital and AI talent domestically.

Unless the US makes investments in attracting, developing and upgrading talent at a large scale --  including promoting emigration of AI talent as well as domestic digital skill upgrading programs -- it risks eroding its leading position. With other countries racing to catch up, the US cannot be complacent about digital talent development.

The environment within the US is also changing quickly. The fastest gains in AI talent hiring are in cities outside of California, which is currently the leader in AI technology development and applications among U.S. states.

These changing dynamics indicate that we’re still just at the beginning of developing these new ecosystems of AI jobs, which we’ve seen across our research in AI. And because we are still at the earliest stages, swift and sustained investments in developing AI ecosystems can yield enormous returns  to governments and leaders who invest in the AI economy.

Women have AI skills, but not AI jobs

Across almost every country, AI skills intensity for women is relatively lower than it is for men. We are able to measure this skill intensity by looking at how the average occupation signals AI skills. We do see some bright spots in our data, though: Canada and some European countries (such as Switzerland and France), seem to be ahead in terms of AI skill intensity among females.

The gender gap in AI occupations is troubling, especially given AI skill penetration rates have smaller gender gaps. This disconnect between skill penetration and occupational representation in AI occupations suggests gender gaps may be related to challenges at the pipeline level: women are relatively less likely to work in roles that require AI skills.

In order to fully reap the benefits of technological progress and innovation, it must be created and developed by diverse teams that are inclusive of a wide range of points of view and experiences. Inclusion, representation, and diversity in AI must become a top priority for businesses and governments.

Though our data does show that we’re making progress in hiring and representation in AI-related career pathways year-on-year, sustained efforts and new investments need to be made in order to accelerate the pace and address inequality challenges.

What lies ahead

Estimates show that AI has the potential to add $13 trillion to current global economic output by 2030, about 16 percent higher than it is today. Given the limited and unequal distribution of AI talent across the globe right now, there is an enormous opportunity for countries -- especially developing economies -- to take a leading role.

But to avoid AI becoming a driver of global inequality, leaders must leverage hard evidence and data about the current state of AI to help inform policy decisions that ensure all members of the global economy benefit from the changes that it will create in the new economy.

We hope our contributions to this annual snapshot of the state of AI helps spark thoughtful, fact-based discussion, and insight into what the path forward could look like. For a closer look at our insights into AI jobs, you can read the full report here.


*Though some of this result may be driven by the disproportionate representation of AI talent and jobs in countries with lower overall coverage, the result still strongly indicates that global demand for AI talent is accelerating over the past two years.

** This report normalizes hiring rates to account for member differences across countries.

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