A 2017 study by Oxford University estimates that the developed world will lose 50% of its jobs to automation. Though the scale is still debated, most western economists agree that the onset of the fourth industrial revolution will lead to widespread unemployment. Some scholars argue that all that may change is the nature of work – so while jobs will still be lost, technology will change the nature of work, which will provide more employment.
Richard Baldwin – professor of international economics at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, has coined words like Globotics, Telemigrants, White-collar robots to describe the parameters of this new world of technology. He warns that the world is unprepared for the ways in which new technology like AI and machine learning, are changing the nature of globalization. Baldwin’s new book, The Globotics Upheaval – Globalization, Robotics, and the Future of Work, explains that disruptions of this AI, Machine Learning and Telecommunications revolution, can displace around 800 million jobs. In addition to AI causing much disruption, telemigration will contribute significantly to job losses across the developed world.
How will this globotics revolution impact India?
Collaborative work models are already widely used in Indian industry. Further improvements in virtual reality technology will make it far easier to collaborate over long distances. Baldwin calls this phenomenon telemigration – and this will be a phenomenal opportunity that India must grab. Many activities that currently require physical presence in another country may soon be deliverable from India itself. India can exploit this opportunity by getting the highest possible standard of broadband access for its citizens to be able to access this opportunity.
But the AI and ML revolution will throw up challenges too; it will destroy large numbers of jobs even while it is creating large numbers of jobs. Experts warn that while India will be impacted through job losses, telemigration is a huge off shoring opportunity that India must utilize to the fullest possible extent.
Is India ready for this change?
Indian industry has always been slow to adapt to change. Traditional large companies which are industry leaders in all domains, have been slow to adopt automation processes and continue to show organization inertia to these changes, though this technology wave is being adopted widely in smaller, more agile companies. The new wave of technology encompassing AI, robotics, telemigration, globalization, and multiple employee engagement models and contracts, cannot be ignored or wished away.
India has a very large workforce, both white collar and blue collar, and these changes are going to disrupt many jobs and lives. The government will need to understand how this revolution will affect jobs and how the country can manage these challenges.
What can India do to help its citizens meet these new and ever-changing goal posts?
Leverage the growing flexi workforce
India has roughly 1.2 million flexi workers and this is projected to touch 6 million in 2 years. Depending on how large companies adopt these new dynamics, it is estimated that by the end of the next decade, 80% of the workforce in India will be working on flexi contracts. Recruitment processes are also changing - freelance specialists already use popular platforms to sell their talents and services to multiple employers. Non-core, but critical functions will increasingly be outsourced, and technology platforms will facilitate the growth of large supply chains for talent.
Developing talent to keep workforces future ready
Industry leaders predict that the technology revolution that is already on us requires a complete overhaul of learning as we know it today. Educational institutions have to overhaul their academic programs to be more industry and reality relevant and companies have to build continuous, flexible and relevant learning matter and processes into their core HR systems. Alternatively talent development can be modeled on the government’s Skill India program and it can invest intensively in learning and development, while companies can become consumers of talent, instead of developing talent on their own.
How can the workforce stay up to date – advice to employees and independent workers.
People have to be relevant at every point of time in their careers. They must understand where their types of jobs are available - in their own organizations as well as in competitors’ organizations, and what changes are happening in their roles and responsibilities. Many midsize organizations today have very focused talent development functions which help to retain employees; these companies prefer to re-skill or up skill employees to cope with the changing nature of work. When they up skill them, the challenge is that competitors will hire employees from organizations that are up skilling employees without investing. However, these proactive companies should continue to up skill their employees to be future ready, regardless of whether or not the employee stays or moves.
My advice to people entering a company at the entry or any other level, it is very important for them to assess if they have the right skill set and competence to perform the role today and also is the role relevant to the future. They should also assess whether the organization and the market will give them the opportunity to learn.