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With the sudden mainstreaming of generative artificial intelligence, AI has transitioned from being a priority in technology and business circles to one of the year’s top news stories. We are seeing increasingly rapid adoption of AI tools, dramatic projected growth of the AI market, and rising levels of public and private investment. Businesses and governments are increasingly recognizing the need to accelerate AI adoption to keep up with changing market expectations, citizen and employee preferences, and to safeguard early mover advantages.

With the increased adoption and integration of AI in organizations come profound industry shifts and the heightened potential for job market disruption, both positive and negative. With this latter in mind, BCG surveyed nearly 13,000 people from executive suite leaders to frontline employees, across 18 different countries in multiple regions, to capture their thoughts and expectations about the potential and impact of AI at work.

Global survey respondents report optimism and concerns, with both magnified in the Middle East

Globally, respondents were cautiously optimistic, with 71% believing that the rewards of AI outweigh the risks and 52% ranking “optimism” as one of their top two sentiments on the subject. Only 36% believed that AI would eliminate their jobs, but a majority overall (79%) viewed AI specific regulation as necessary.

Middle East (ME) respondents were more optimistic than the global average: 78% believed the rewards of generative AI outweigh the risks. In fact, the ME region ranked as the third-most optimistic region in this survey despite having a curiosity level slightly below the global average. It is interesting to note here that optimism in Saudi Arabia surpassed the ME average by 5PP.

At the same time, ME respondents were much more likely to predict that AI will result in large shifts in the job market. 84% of respondents believe that their jobs will most likely be transformed by AI while a striking 60% believe that their jobs are likely to no longer exist due to AI. Slightly below the global average, yet on par with the general consensus of the survey, 76% of ME respondents exhibited AI-related regulations be necessary.

ME leaders face unique opportunities and responsibilities

ME respondents’ heightened optimism around AI creates a unique opportunity for action by leaders in the region. However, respondents’ relatively higher level of concern that AI will eliminate their jobs brings with it amplified leadership responsibilities. To leverage this pivotal moment in time, while helping employees adapt to a rapidly changing work environment, leaders in the Middle East should consider to:

  • Proactively address job security concerns that arise from the use of AI (e.g., through education and awareness campaigns), and be willing to make changes as needed in recruiting, development, and organizational design.
  • Invest in regular upskilling and ensure that there are spaces for responsible AI experimentation where employees can test and apply their knowledge. This allows employees to experience the benefits as well as the risks of AI and increases their capacity for success in a more AI-dominated workplace.
  • Leverage ME’s optimism towards AI, striking the right balance between reaping AI’s benefits and mitigating its risks while seizing opportunities for the positive impact of AI.

There is no question that AI, including generative AI, is rapidly shaping our future. Middle East organizations of all kinds must look for ways to unlock their potential if they are to remain competitive and meet evolving customer demands. But the best leaders understand the need to do so responsibly, with sensitivity to the personal disruptions it can bring. They will move forward with a focus on mitigating the risks and positioning their employees for sustainable, long-term success. Ultimately this ambitious but mindful approach will contribute to the region’s sustainable, long-term growth.

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