5 minutes

A unique opportunity for Poland in the global AI skills race

As the title suggests, it will be about artificial intelligence (AI), but before delving into that, I would like to start with something else. Usually, we focus on aggregated data on the labor market, while many interesting processes can be observed at the local level. Lately, I have been intrigued by the phenomenon of Krakow. It is a city where the average wage (data concerning entities of the national economy with 10 or more employees and budgetary sector units) has been growing much faster than the national average over the past 5 years – at a rate of 10.8% and 8.2% per year, respectively. This pace clearly distinguishes Krakow from other major urban centers, including Warsaw. As a result, while in 2017 the average salary in Krakow was only 82% of the average for Warsaw, in 2022 it reached 96%. There is a great chance that in this or the following year, Krakow will become the leader.

Such a spectacular success of Krakow would not have been possible without significant changes in the employment structure. It is not the case that wages in all industries increase by nearly 11% each year. A large part of the average wage growth is a result of sectoral reshuffles. The most significant ones include an increase in the number of employees in “Information and communication” (up by 153% compared to 2017) and “Professional, scientific, and technical activities” (+58%), accompanied by a significant decrease in employment in “Trade and car repair” (-32%) and “Accommodation and food service activities” (-11%). The average salary in the first two mentioned sectors is 2-3 times higher than in the remaining two. Therefore, the change in employment structure acted as a strong catalyst for the average wage level.

The rapid growth of employment in lucrative industries is a result of the fact that Krakow has become a hub for many international and local companies, establishing their business service centers here. This, in turn, would not have been possible without the appropriate resources, particularly a skilled workforce equipped with competencies tailored to the market needs. As for the downward trends, in the case of trade, job reductions were a consequence of consolidation and changes in the organizational model, while in the case of accommodation and food service activities, the aftermath of the pandemic played a significant role.

The example of Krakow clearly demonstrates how quickly changes can occur in the labor market today. Just a few years are enough for the market to undergo substantial transformations, resulting in broader socio-economic changes. Krakow – and Poland in general – are positive examples of how structural changes can translate into social well-being. However, it is important to remember that this principle works both ways – in the past, some Southern European countries experienced deep crises because they failed to protect themselves from the “leakage” of well-paid industrial jobs.

Now is the time for artificial intelligence to take the stage. Everything we have experienced so far is just a glimpse of what awaits us with the proliferation of AI-based solutions. In a recent article titled “GPT – a real revolution is coming!, I described some of the processes that will accompany this development. One of the most important aspects is that AI-based solutions will enable the automation of many non-routine tasks that require relatively high qualifications. A significant number of professionals in such fields are currently working in Krakow. Does this mean that the end of the aforementioned “success story” is rapidly approaching?

Not necessarily. What is certain is that within the next 5 years, the functioning of business service centers will undergo significant changes. In my opinion, they will be at the forefront of the transformations caused by the proliferation of AI-based solutions. Some tasks in these centers will undoubtedly be automated. However, this does not necessarily mean a decrease in employment. The key to success will once again be competencies, especially those that are currently not yet present in the labor market.

This is where a unique opportunity for Poland arises, one that is worth seizing. With so many business service centers, including those directly working on AI-based solutions, we have the critical mass to become a hub for gathering information and drawing conclusions about the competencies needed in the AI environment. The next step should be the rapid transfer of these conclusions to the education system, including primary education, higher education, and life-long learning. By doing so, we can not only strengthen our current positions but also become beneficiaries in terms of high-quality job opportunities during the ongoing technological revolution. Of course, this won’t happen on its own. We need appropriate institutional solutions based on the collaboration of the private and public sectors. There is also a need for widespread awareness that the fundamental competence in the world of AI is the ability to continuously learn.

As early as 2020, I wrote about the fact that the key symbol of the ongoing decade would be the letter “K.” It symbolizes both the rapid differentiation process within individual industries and the situations of individual countries – for some, the changes taking place in the world will be an opportunity to “take off,” while for others, they will result in social and economic regression. Rarely in our history do we have such a good starting point to “take off” as we do today. It would be worth utilizing it, requiring just a little bit of ….. intelligence!


Published: Parkiet, 29.05.2023

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