The future of jobs - No future for white and blue collar workers

Around 43 % of businesses surveyed indicate that they are set to reduce their workforce due to technology integration, 41% plan to expand their use of contractors for task-specialised work

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: Social Media)

V Venkateswara Rao

"Automation, in tandem with the COVID-19 recession, is creating a ‘double-disruption’ scenario for workers,” the World Economic Forum (WEF) said in a report. “In addition to the current disruption from the pandemic-induced lockdowns and economic contraction, technological adoption by companies will transform tasks, jobs and skills by 2025.”

Around 43 percent of businesses surveyed indicate that they are set to reduce their workforce due to technology integration, 41 percent plan to expand their use of contractors for task-specialised work, and only 34 percent plan to expand their workforce due to technology integration.

In a report published on Wednesday, WEF said the rise of machines and automation would eliminate 85 million jobs by 2025. But at the same time, the WEF expects 97 million new jobs to be created, meaning an overall addition of 12 million jobs. It stressed the need for “reskilling” and “upskilling” from employers and governments, to ensure staff are sufficiently equipped for the future of work. WEF expects work to be divided equally among humans and machines by 2025, with computers handling much of the heavy lifting with respect to data processing, administrative tasks and routine manual jobs for white- and blue-collar workers.

Only 49.2 per cent of India’s labour force is digitally skilled, according to the WEF report, based on projections of senior business leaders who represent approximately 300 global companies that collectively employ 8 million workers.

The Government of India needs to undertake a huge upskilling and reskilling mission to retrain the redundant bricks and mortar workforce, in order to enable them to retain their jobs. They need to be reskilled as Artificial Intelligence (AI) scientists, big data analysts, digital marketeers and information security specialists. A huge reskilling eco-system consisting of learning components such as English, AI, Robotics and Data Analytics needs to be created.

According to the WEF report, half of all employees will need some level of retraining in the next five years. “The window of opportunity that we have to ensure that workers have the right kinds of skills for the future just got a whole lot shorter,” WEF said. “We will need a lot more effort from business, government and workers themselves to ensure that they have the kind of reskilling and upskilling they need.”

The jobs WEF expects to be lost to machines:

Data entry clerks

Administrative and executive secretaries

  • Accounting, bookkeeping and payroll clerks
  • Accountants and auditors
  • Assembly and factory workers
  • Business services and administration managers
  • Client information and customer service workers
  • General and operations managers
  • Mechanics and machinery repairers
  • Material-recording and stock-keeping clerks

The new jobs expected to get growing demand:

  • Data analysts and scientists
  • AI and machine learning specialists
  • Big data specialists
  • Digital marketing and strategy specialists
  • Process automation specialists
  • Business development professionals
  • Digital transformation specialists
  • Information security analysts
  • Software and applications developers
  • Internet of things specialists

'Atmanirbhar Bharat' alone cannot safeguard the jobs of our white- and blue-collar workers. They need to be prepared to fight against the onslaught of robots and AI.

(V Venkateswara Rao is a retired corporate professional and a freelance writer)

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