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Automotive Product Finder Magazine | Will advanced automation lead to job losses
Will advanced automation lead to job losses
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Industry 4.0 is here in which breakthrough technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, data science, quantum computing, and internet-of-things which will help enable advanced applications such as social robots, autonomous vehicles, virtual assistants, 3D printing and desktop manufacturing. There is a debate among labour economists on the effects of introducing advance technology to increase productivity in general, and of automation using robots and AI on employment in particular, says Dr Gayathri Vasudevan.
Industry 4.0 marks a paradigm shift from the past era of rigid, efficiency-focused and manual manufacturing to a dynamic, flexible, and automated manufacturing techniques. This indicates that there is a shift of focus from mass production to mass customisation.
Similarly, there is a transition from large-scale factories specialised for a product to ‘Smart Factories’ which can produce multiple products at a competitive cost with superior technology and automation. Ability to adapt will also facilitate to work remotely using technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR).
However, a ‘Smart Factory’ or Factory 4.0 that leverages all fundamental doctrines – the Internet of Things (IoT), additive manufacturing, and big data, is not yet pervasive in India. Though there are few companies besides large global players which have done so, the full potential of Industry 4.0 is yet to be leveraged particularly in emerging markets.
Effect on jobs
That technology and automation is here to stay is given. It is, but logical to assume that productivity will be better with automation and technological advancements. At the same time, this brings to fore a moot question – the effect of technological advancements and automation on jobs. Two schools of thoughts have emerged in the expert analysis regarding the impact of automation on jobs.
Several experts believe that the adoption of Industry 4.0 will result in improved use of automation and robots on the work floor. Given that the robots are competent to perform repetitive tasks with high levels of accuracy and within shorter durations than humans, robots will act as an efficient replacement for human labour.
The other school of thought believe that the latest technologies will not result in job loss, instead automation will increase the employment opportunities. The basis for this belief is the fact that Industry 4.0 will result in an increase in labour productivity and the quality of the products manufactured, resulting in an increased demand for quality products, presenting companies with no option but to build capacity to meet the demand.
There is no doubt that specific low-skilled jobs will be extinguished. While automation is here is to stay and make deeper in-roads, a research paper by Asian Development Bank said new jobs will appear, but those will require skills that workers do not possess. This squarely reinforces the need for a more robust and concerted skilling exercise. Needless to say – the government, educational institutions, companies and workers – have a role to play in this.
Skill India for skill readiness of labour for Industry 4.0
The success of any industry depends not only on the machines deployed for manufacturing the products but also on the labour force employed. The employees are required to have the necessary skill sets to operate machines efficiently and to guarantee that the processes as per standard operating procedures.
India faces a dual challenge of a lack of highly - trained employees and non-employability of a large section of the educated labour force due to skills mismatch. Education plays a vital role in ensuring skill-readiness of the labour force. General education, as well as vocational education, have a critical role to play in making the labour force industry-ready. Companies are facing challenges in finding a skilled workforce. With skills required for the jobs changing faster, companies across the world are facing challenges in finding skilled workforce at current skill levels. With technology’s faster metamorphosis and displaced workforce, the talent pool through which employers have to select workers is shrinking.
To overcome the difficulties mentioned above, companies are resorting to building capabilities of their existing workforce, developing new recruitment channels and tapping into labour pools of different countries. With the increase in adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies, the problem is bound to become even more severe. Not only will there be a lack of workforce with the desired skill-sets, but employers will have to make a high capital investment in re-skilling or up-skilling their existing workforce to suit their requirements.
Challenges faced for skill development
India has realised the importance of skill development in boosting economic growth and has taken various measures to bridge the skill gap. From increasing education expenditure to a growing network of vocational trainers by launching nation-wide programs, initiatives have been launched to make the labour force industry-ready.
Mismatched demand-supply: Today, vocational education and skill development in India are primarily supply-driven, resulting in a high mismatch between the skill sets of the workforce and the industry expectations. This resulted in low employability among the youth. To mitigate this issue, companies have been running in-house training to impart the essential skills, but this came at a cost.
Access: India sees very little participation in vocational education due to the lack of access to vocational education as a sufficient number of vocational schools and training institutes across the country either do not exist or do not offer the relevant courses to make the work force Industry 4.0 ready.
Lack of industrial training: Students lack the practical exposure, which helps in a quick adaption of technical skills as apprenticeships are not included as a mandatory part of vocational education.
Quality: India also faces challenges in terms of having inflexible and outdated curricula, shortage of qualified teachers and trainers and unavailability of sophisticated infrastructure.
Prejudices: In India, the Vocational Education and Training (VET) suffers from a negative image, as it is considered as a career choice for students who are less qualified academically.
Initiatives by the Government of India
The Government of India has formulated a National Policies on Skill Development to create a workforce empowered with improved skills, knowledge and internationally recognised qualification to gain access to decent employment and confirm India’s competence in the dynamic global labour market.
In line with the policy, the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC) was established as one of its kind public, private partnership in India to fulfil the growing need for skilled workforce across the sectors and to narrow the existing gap between demand and supply of skills by focusing on the expansion of the vocational education network. It promotes the creation of large, quality, for-profit training institutions by providing funding in the form of equity, debt and grants.
NSDC has also facilitated the establishment of around 40 Sector Skill Councils (SSC). SSCs play a vital role in bridging the demand-supply skill gap. Each SSC represents a particular sector and has several industry representatives on board.
Government of India also launched National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme to promote apprenticeship training in the country. As it is considered to be one of the most efficient ways to develop skilled manpower for the country. It provides for an industry led, practice oriented, effective and efficient mode of formal training.
To improve industrial training scenario, India has also launched the National Employability Enhancement Mission (NEEM). The objective of NEEM is to offer on-the-job training to enhance employability of a person pursuing his or her graduation/diploma in any technical and non-technical stream. This training is provided to a person who has discontinued studies of degrees or diploma course.
Skills for the future
It is very important to understand what changes automation will bring in the current manufacturing setup, what the new tasks that an employee would have to do will be, how it is going to be different from what he or she has been doing and what additional skills would be required to carry out those tasks successfully.
About the author:
Dr Gayathri Vasudevan is the CEO & Co-Founder of LabourNet Services India Pvt Ltd. A doctorate in Development Studies with more than 23 years of consistent work in national and international organisations, Gayathri has been extensively involved in policy issues and community mobilisations relating to labour and livelihoods.
Asian Development Bank
Vocational Education And Training
National Skills Development Corporation
National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme
National Employability Enhancement Mission
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