The nature of blue collar, at times, even white collar employment could undergo a tectonic shift going ahead. That’s because of the rise of machines, particularly artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics. While AI has been around since the 1950s, the ability of a computer or a computer-enabled robotic system to process information and produce results has jumped multi-fold – machines today are able to make decisions and solve complex problems on their own, with little human intervention. While automation may not lead to the mass obsolescence of manual labour as some predict, it would definitely lead to shrinkage of jobs in many industries.
A new report on “Artificial Intelligence and Robotics – 2017” by PwC-Assocham buttresses the point. Here are some highlights:
1. Sectors that would be impacted because of robotic systems and ML algorithms taking up several tasks include IT, manufacturing, agriculture, forestry among others.
2. The implication for ‘Make in India’: It could strengthen India’s production capabilities but “may not end up creating nearly as many jobs as it is poised to at this point in time”. A separate report by Shashi Shekhar Vempati, a digital strategist, published by Carnegie India, underlines the point: “Foxconn is among the top owners of robotics patents filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and produces thousands of industrial robots a year that in aggregate are capable of performing more than ten types of manufacturing tasks. This is expected to have a significant impact on the workforce: as many as 60,000 workers have been displaced by robots in one Foxconn factory alone in the Kunshan region of China. China is projected to have more installed industrial robots by the end of 2016 than any other country, with more than 30 robots for every 10,000 industrial workers. If China were to increase that density, employment would be further damaged.” Chinese manufacturers are now investing in India – all greenfield factories are expected to have a higher degree of automation than we have seen in the past. Competitive pressures will propel Indian manufacturers to automate as well.
3. The PwC-Assocham report states that there is a positive to the robotic rise. “A scenario wherein low-skilled, repeatable labour can be assigned to robotic systems provides an incentive for part of the workforce to be trained in higher level skills such as designing, monitoring and oversight, and adjusting machine algorithms to enable AI systems to operate in a reliable and transparent manner”. That’s the shift in the nature of employment India is likely to experience.