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Jan 11, 2021

Emerging technologies and the future of work in India

Owing to its status of being at 6th position in the world’s largest economies, the Indian employment realm will observe somewhat similar changes as what has been predicted for the rest of the world. On that note, it could be said that artificial intelligence (AI) and automation will remarkably change the face of Indian employment.

While layoffs will continue to be an inevitable aspect of the job sector, it is important to note that myriads of new jobs will evolve at the same time. Taking specifically about AI, it is expected to generate 2.3 million new jobs globally while obliterating just 1.8 million, according to a Gartner report.

Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) and Ernst & Young has recently conducted a study on the impact of advanced technologies on 5 major sectors, including information technology/information technology-enabled services (IT/ITeS), financial services, retail, automobile and textile 7 apparel.

Named Future of Jobs in India, the study has revealed that nearly 9% of India’s total workforce of 600 million people will be in jobs that don’t exist today with 39% being in jobs that will undergo colossal changes with respect to required skillset in the next five years.

The report further suggests that 12 major factors will decide the future of jobs in India, including rising middle-class population, adoption of exponential technologies, business innovations, development of optimized supply chains and globalization-specific factors such as the level of FDI inflows, and availability of jobs at overseas locations for Indians.

Experts suggest that most future job loss warnings fail to distinguish between AI and automation while overlooking innumerable benefits of AI augmentation – a blend of human cognitive capabilities and artificial intelligence, wherein both will complement each other. This trend is likely to pick up pace in the next several years or decades to pave the way to future jobs that don’t exist today but will soon.

The ongoing technological advancements will certainly change the job scene in India. Adoption of exponential technologies and digitization will bring about sea changes in business operations/processing, business models, and global value chains. These changes have the potential to positively transform the Indian employment landscape in near future – much better than what we expect today. More productive yet safer jobs, better suited job opportunity, higher-paying jobs, and improved access to social security are to name a few benefits that we can expect from the employment sector in the next couple of years.

In association with the World Economic Forum (WEF), Observer Research Foundation conducted two surveys, namely Future of Work in India, including 774 companies from small and medium-sized enterprises to large corporations, and Young India and Work, comprising 5,746 youths, aged 15-30 years. The findings predict how digitization and emerging technologies can be leveraged to create a promising future for professionals in India at all levels. Continue reading to know how technological innovations could reshape the face of Indian employment:

Generating Ample Opportunities for the Ever-Growing Indian Workforce

While it is a ubiquitous concern that automation and exponential technologies will eat up most of the present jobs in future, Indian companies have a completely opposing outlook. The survey has revealed that, there are twice as many companies that have hired new talents due to technology adoption as their counterparts that have reduced their workforce in the past five years.

Owing to ongoing automation across industries, several jobs will certainly become redundant, but this might prove to be a blessing in disguise if it will replace risky and unwanted jobs.

New types of job have recently emerged with the elimination of a few conventional ones. Around 21% of the participating companies have generated new positions in the wake of digitization and automation in the last 5 years.

Improving Quantity and Quality of Jobs in India

A unique feature of Indian employment market is that around 92% of employment is non-standard. Informal employment, be it in the form of temporary jobs, contractual roles and part-time opportunities, make for the bulk of job market in India. This might appear unpromising for a moment, but the trend is actually getting popular in developed economies.

A large chunk of Indian workforce is not employed in organizations that are legally bound to offer social security and other benefits to their employees. Increasing interest of organizations in offering independent work along with growing inclination of the Indian youth towards digitally-enabled independent work calls for the development of revived models of social security and benefits that are directly related to independent professionals rather than employers.

The survey too points towards growing preference towards new work arrangements. According to the survey, about 19% of the firms hired freelancers in the previous year. New types of employment might compel organizations to exercise flexibility; required to expand, innovate and adopt technological innovations. However, the flexibility should not be achieved by risking people’s welfare and wellbeing.

The survey report further revealed that India’s young generation is highly optimistic about independent work options. Nearly 59% of young participants expressed moderate to strong interest in being part of the gig economy for their primary source of earning.

This widespread approval will definitely work in favor of India in the coming years. But to actualize this, Indian organizations will have to take complete advantage of the digitization and Internet accessibility. This will generate higher-paying and more employee-friendly opportunities, while bringing more professionals under the roof/ambit of paid economy.

Access to improved social security and larger markets will be added benefits to professionals, which will offer needed flexibility to companies to adapt to technological innovations.

Creating Equal Opportunities to Youth, Women, and Marginalized Communities

It is worth mentioning that women contribute to 17% of India’s GDP, which is around 35-40% for most developed countries. Also, women make for about 27% of the total Indian workforce, which is way less than the global mean of 50%. If compared with previous reports, it is pretty evident that female participation in the labor force has increased. But the survey has a different story to tell!

Nearly 30% of the participating organizations don’t have any female employee. Also, the remaining 70% of the companies have 10% or less females contributing to their respective workforces. Besides, women form just 26% of all hiring for the fastest–growing roles in the last five years.

Even more depressing is the survey revelation that shows gender biasness across various sectors. Around 37% companies are reluctant to add more women to their existing labor forces due to preference towards male employees. Here, it is worth mentioning that reinforcing women participation in the Indian workforce might enhance India’s GDP by 27%.

The research also depicts that about 64% of the youth aren’t neither into education nor employed due to hurdles in finding desirable jobs. These could be due to absence of appropriate information, lack of guidance to help them find suitable openings and unavailability of skill-development programs.

Here, online platforms can help offer access to relevant information, boost awareness about changes in skillset required for apparently new roles, provide counselling and mentoring services, and gain work experience through project-based work.

Limited utilization of resources negatively impacts the economy and impedes economic growth. With work drifting from factory and offices to digital spaces, there is ample possibility to reconsider the requirements of economic participation, revive social norms related to employment, and adopt a new framework that allow increased participation of women as well as marginalized sections of the society in the workforce.

Developing an Ecosystem, Capable of Educating and Upgrading the Skills of the Workforce

Not only does technological innovations bring changes to types of jobs, but also alters job roles and skills required to take those roles. This will entail adjusting to the present skillsets while taking initiatives to bring in new skills for newcomers to the workforce.

The report shows that for around 35% of the companies surveyed, lack of required skillset is a major hindrance to adopting emerging technologies. Further, 33% companies think that their workforce need to learn new skills to manage their newly introduced machinery or technology.

A fortunate finding of the study is that most companies are making efforts to the fill the skill void in their existing workforce through training sessions. Simultaneously, the India youth, who are planning or have recently joined the labor force, are pretty excited about skill upgrade. According to the survey, 76% of the youth are interested in taking up a skill development training program with a mindset that such moves could bring better job opportunities and more salaries to them.

Investments to boost human capital is necessary to ensure the availability of rightly skilled workforce for businesses. This, in turn, will catalyze technology adoption as well as enhance productivity. An easily accessible, appropriate and affordable training opportunities should be made available to the present and upcoming workforce to boost employability.

Ideally, the private sector should take charge of skill modification and skill upgrade by offering requisite trainings along with proper mentoring and counselling sessions to the workforce. Here, use of technologically innovative platforms for skill development and training will not only act as an excellent illustration of finding a solution within the problem, but can also be regarded as a better alternative to conventional educational systems.

Developing an All-Round Policy Space to Create Jobs that is In Line with Job Seekers’ Interest

While most companies believe that adoption of new technologies is likely to bring positive outcomes in the next 5 years, around 65% of the participating organizations accept that they are experiencing difficulty in adopting such technologies; mainly, due to lack of aptly skilled workforce and funds to invest on training them.

To overcome such hindrances, India should look for new ways to take full advantage of technology-oriented job market. In light of technology-based predictions for the Indian job market, it will be imperative for the country to develop a policy setting, which is capable of generating productive job opportunities while focusing on the interest of job seekers and the society on the whole.

Also, entitlements and social protections, offered by employers, need to be reconsidered as per the new technology-oriented workforce. Novel protections along with provisions to directly link offerings and entitlements to employees instead of employers.

Final Words

As one of world’s largest emerging economies, India has immense potential to overcome technological disturbances and cope with changing business environment due to the need to incorporate exponential technologies across various industries and train the workforce accordingly.

If this could be achieved successfully, India could be able to generate countless new job opportunities for its ever-growing labor force, boost growth and productivity, and create improved work environment.

For this, public and private sectors together with the society will need to follow a collaborative approach to understand the possible impact of technological disturbances. Such an approach will additionally help overcome challenges posed by technological innovations through adjustments in policies, professional training methods and business operations on the whole.

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