Automation to create enterprise job opportunities in India

By Vishal Chawla Aug 1st 2017
Automation to create enterprise job opportunities in India

Contrary to popular opinion, automation will not cause mass unemployment, but will only disrupt labor markets in the short-term, say experts. 

 

 

Whether it is robotics used in manufacturing or artificial intelligence (AI) being deployed in complex IT systems, workers are now even more concerned about losing their jobs to automation.

The fear of losing jobs to technology started with the industrial revolution and continues to resurface almost every decade with newer digital advancements. Here, top academicians of India explain how automation will lead to an era of human-machine partnerships, which will change the workplace entirely. 


Not all jobs are under threat


“We should think of solutions which are not just bootstrap but also scalable. Focus should be on competencies we need to be relevant at this time."

Abhishek Goel

Organizational Behaviour Expert, IIM-C

Automation may only partially replace current jobs. A report by the McKinsey Global Institute states that only less than 5 percent of today’s jobs are likely to be entirely replaced by automation. 

“With all this technology coming in, like machine learning and artificial intelligence, the very definition and the way jobs are understood today will undergo change,” says S Raghunath, Dean and professor of Corporate Strategy, IIM Calcutta.

 

Although automation may not cause mass unemployment, it will surely quicken the current trend of disturbing labor markets just as technological change did in history, and require workers to adapt by learning new skills.


Future of IT employment in India

“In India, there are a lot of opportunities but a shortage of skills. There's no reason to raise cry about the jobs that machines will be doing, as automation will lead to new possibilities,” says Professor Sadagopan, director of International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore.

  

“In India, there are a lot of opportunities but a shortage of skills. There's no reason to raise a hue and cry about the jobs that machines will be doing, as automation will lead to new possibilities." 

Prof. Sadagopan

Director, IIIT Bangalore

Since the last couple of years, several IT layoffs have been reported in India. According to NASSCOM, the focus of the industry has shifted from scale to skill.  The USD 150-billion dollar IT industry’s demand for skilled workers in the areas of data analytics and AI has been rising. NASSCOM also projected that up to three million new IT positions would be added by 2025.

But to leverage this opportunity, Indian IT job seekers may have to acquire creative problem-solving skills such as optimizing codes for various IT requirements and machine learning models.

 

Read more: Mass layoffs plaguing the IT industry, NASSCOM denies

 

Abhishek Goel, an organizational behavior expert at IIM Calcutta is optimistic about the opportunities for the Indian workforce. He believes that the sheer number of the skilled workforce can surpass the challenges of disruption and automation.

"There will always be some form of human ingenuity and creativity needed to solve problems. We should think of such solutions which are not just bootstrap but also scalable. The focus should be on the competencies we need to be relevant at this time," Goel says.

 

The automation paradox

Economists have been trying to bust the fears of automation by arguing that it surges productivity, which causes prices to fall and creates demands for products and services. The high demand then pushes the need for more employees.

“It's time that our country provides education which is linked to what’s happening with technology and we upgrade the entire education system."

S Raghunath,

Prof-Corporate Strategy, IIM-C

For instance, when ATMs were first introduced, they were anticipated to replace all bank tellers. Later on, when ATMs radically improved the productivity of banks, more branches were opened to meet customer demands, which instead resulted in the hiring of more employees.

"I think it's time that our country provides education that is linked to what’s happening with technology and we upgrade the entire education system," said Prof. Raghunath of IIM Calcutta.

Workers with tech skills will always be in demand but also require continuous on-the-job learning to stay in tune with digital disruption. Experts believe that the chief impact of automation may not be to eradicate jobs but to reinvent them—optimizing the responsibilities and the abilities necessary to perform them. 

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