(Source: Bloomberg)

India May See More Job Losses Over Next Decade, Say Industry Experts

India will continue to see job losses for at least the next decade before skill development programmes can ensure that the unskilled labour can contribute to the modern-day manufacturing processes, industry participants said at a conference organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry in New Delhi.

“Typically, the duration could be a decade (the time gap needed to skill the workforce), but we could cut this time down if we somehow manage to make the industry work along with the academia at a closer pace,” Rajeev Singh, senior director at global consultancy Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India LLP told BloombergQuint on the sidelines of the event.

Automation and dependence on machinery, and artificial intelligence have often been pegged as key reasons for job losses, especially in the manufacturing sector.

The concept of automation – robotics leading to job losses – is definitely a fear and definitely there is some truth to it, said Kishore Jayaraman, president (India & South Asia), Rolls-Royce India Pvt. Ltd., who was also present at the event.

There needs to be an action plan so that there are no job losses, and it is a win-win situation. It should come down to a point where there are no job losses, but there is an increase in efficiency through automation…all companies need to think in that direction.
Kishore Jayaraman, President (India & South Asia), Rolls-Royce India

The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government had promised in its election manifesto in 2014 to keep job creation and entrepreneurship as areas of high priority. At a pre-election rally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised the creation of 1 crore jobs over the next five years.

Despite the government’s ‘Make in India’ push, job growth has not taken off with unemployment rising to 5 percent during 2015-16, compared with 4.9 percent in 2013-14, according to data available with the labour ministry.

Quarterly surveys by the Ministry of Labour and Employment revealed that only 1,35,000 additional jobs were created in 2015, down from 9,30,000 in 2011. Pitting the figure against an addition of 1.2 crore new workforce every year, jobs were available for only 1 percent of those.

However, jobs lost in the near term due to automation, are eventually found elsewhere in the economy, and as potentially higher paying jobs, said Drew Johnson, vice-president of Engineering at Internet of Things-led firm Aeris.

Conference participants agreed that low-skilled jobs would particularly be at risk during the next few years and added that skill development would be key to offset losses.

“It is a total misnomer that it (robotics) is going to eliminate jobs; it does misplace jobs. Yes, the very low-value adding jobs are going to be eliminated, but is that how we become competitive as a country? It’s not with the low value jobs; we have to climb up the chain,” said Pradeep David, general manager, India at Universal Robots, who stressed on skill development as a worthy replacement to the conventional jobs requiring manual labour.