Impact of Workplace Automation/Robotics on Employment in India

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Impact of Workplace AutomationRobotics on Employment in India

The economy of a nation will definitely be boosted with the rise of robots, but the same economy may shrivel up when robots overthrow millions of people from their jobs. Hence, the long-term impact of automation on the economy of a nation remains questionable to date. Like co-founder and CEO of Boxed Chieh Huang said, “Automation is great for profits, but it’s a real potential trouble area for society”. So, it is up to us human beings—if we are not smart enough about how we integrate automation into our economy, robots may end up compromising our entire system; however, if we are smart enough, robots can be a solution to many economic issues existing today.

With the rise in technologies like artificial intelligence, 3D printing, nanobots, genetics, biotechnology, and other robotics areas, the world is on the verge of the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” as predicted by the World Economic Forum. Automation can complete tedious and difficult-to-handle processes more easily and efficiently, which not only saves time but also money. Besides, it cuts down the constant attention required from the employees in manufacturing and delivering a product. The leading car manufacturer Maruti Suzuki India Ltd now has one robot for almost every four workers—approximately 5,000 robots at their Manesar and Gurgaon plants. Companies can expect increased productivity and improved quality, and save some money in the process—the mantra required for the success of every business. Thus, the popularity of robotics is undeniable and its applicability cannot be undermined.

Robotics has now found its application in almost all the sectors, including healthcare, textile, agriculture, automobile, pharmaceutical, industrial, IT, mining and so on. With such diverse implementation, robotics is rapidly gaining ground, but is gradually replacing the blue collar employees. The scenario can be extremely grim one day if this trend continues.  The World Bank has predicted massive job threats in India in the coming years—an estimate of 5 million job replacements by the year 2020. According to a report by City Bank, “Around 30% of all bank jobs would be terminated due to increased automation in various banking services.” Also, a US-based HfS Research predicted that workplace automation will terminate 6.4 lakh “low-skilled” jobs in the IT industry of India in the next 5 years. According to World Bank data, the percentage of jobs that will be replaced by automation is 69% in India, while it is 77% in china and 85% in Ethiopia. Although until this point most job replacements have been in manual labor, they may start affecting intellectually intensive or white collar jobs over the course of time.

The estimate of existing jobs that has the potential of automation varies widely across industry sectors. According to several professionals across different industrial domains, most of the sectors are likely to be partially automated, although some have the chances of complete automation in the next 5 years (for example, manufacturing sector and finance sector). According to a report published by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), transportation and manufacturing will have the highest number of existing jobs that could be automated by 2030 at around 52% and 45%, respectively. The wholesale and retail trade sector has a moderately high automatability estimate at 34%, while healthcare and education sectors have relatively lower potential of automatability at 21%. Moreover, data-driven industries, such as financial services and information technology, will be most affected by automation in the short term, while the advent of driverless vehicles and other types of automated machine will have an impact on sectors such as transport and construction in the long run. Potential automation rates vary widely by occupation, i.e., machine operators and assemblers could face an automation risk of over 60% by the 2030s, while senior officials and managers may face only around a 10% risk of automation.


Hence, it is quite evident that the wave of automation is on its way. It would not be wrong if we imagine a company comprising the Founder and a bunch of shiny robots! However, human minds that have created an advanced science as robotics can definitely think of ways to avert the economic collapse expected due to his own creation.

Although workplace automation will be making some of the jobs obsolete, it would also allow humans to be involved in jobs that require greater knowledge and critical thinking; in short, new jobs would be created. Here are some of the new job roles that automation will contribute:


  • Data Creation Hubs: Creation of data sets that will help robots interpret languages, draw inferences and differentiate objects will need human assistance.


  • New Roles Within IT Services: Newer roles such as research scientists, language-processing specialists, robotic process automation (RPA) developers and man–machine teaming managers will require human involvement.


  • Greater Involvement of Healthcare Professionals: As routine tasks will be assisted by robots, medical personals will be able to focus more on serious cases.


  • Advisory Solutions Using Human Expertise and Machines: Offering advisory solution through digitalization could significantly improve the accessibility and reach to a wider population.


Role of the Government:


The Government can play an active role in preparing the people for the hazards of this workplace automation. The Skill India initiative should be actively involved in upskilling the population so as to strike a balance between job availability and employee readiness. Part of the workforce could be trained in higher-level skills such as designing, monitoring and troubleshooting, whereas the low-skill order group could be given basic computer training so that they could take up jobs available at data creation hubs and also assist in the basic operation of AI-driven systems.


Role of the Businesses:

On-the-job training would help the employees in their smooth transition into new roles. Complete knowledge of the automation system would be very helpful rather than knowing only the functions. Every organization should develop its own strategy to handle automation to stay competitive.


Role of Educational Systems: 


Instead of the traditional curricula, educational institutes should include robotics courses. Programs related to skill development should be made mandatory. Academic institutes could collaborate with industries so that students get hands-on experience on real-life challenges on current technologies.


Role of Individuals:


It is the primary responsibility of every individual to keep themselves updated about the constantly changing market dynamics.


The World Bank President Jim Yong Kim rightly said, “If this is true, and if these countries are going to lose these many jobs, we then have to understand what paths to economic growth will be available for these countries and then adapt our approach to infrastructure accordingly”.

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