Jobocalypse! Silicon Collars are Winning Race for Work
Nasscom said in its annual review that jobs grew only by 5% in FY17 and there may be a 20-25% reduction in jobs over the next three years
Surabhi Agarwal & Prachi Verma Dadhwal
Mumbai | New Delhi: As the $155-billion IT industry tries to reinvent itself through automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, its traditional appetite for jobs is decreasing by the day. Industry body Nasscom said in its annual review that while the industry grew at 8.6%, jobs grew only by 5% in the fiscal year 2016-17. Nasscom also said that there is going to be a 20-25% reduction in jobs over the next three years.
Industry executives and experts said that the gap between the revenue growth and job growth will only increase given the commoditised nature of the IT services.
Malcolm Frank, chief strategy officer of Cognizant said that Oxford University got everybody nervous when they said that 47% of all jobs will go away by 2025. “In the next10 years, we don’t think there will not be a white-collar job that will not be touched by artificial intelligence. In our estimate, around12% of the jobs will go away due to the bot and automation.” He added that the remaining three quarters of the jobs will have to adopt bots as a tool. “But, it’s going to be all okay. There will be 13% of net new jobs which will emerge which we don’t know about,” said Frank.
Executives said that while the situation is being touted as all gloom and doom, there are a variety of new skills such as data scientists which are required and reskilling of people
LESSONS IN LIVING
at all levels will be the key focus area in the coming years. Keshav Murugesh, CEO of WNS Global Services said that changing trends in the technology is a way of life and the industry can’t complain about it. “As robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence get more deeply incorporated into the business models, the revenue will grow faster than the headcount,” he said. Murugesh added that, however, since there is still a lot of untapped potential for the industry, the higher growth rates in the future will mean increase in job additions too. “The industry has to itself figure out the skilling part. The best way is to identify the technologies of the future and work towards developing those skills,” he said. Over the past year, while Infosys has “released” 8,000-9,000 employees because of automation of lowerend jobs to work on more advanced projects, Wipro has an automation platform called Holmes which has led to around 3,200 people being released to do more innovative work. Ratna Gupta, director - technology vertical at ABC Consultants, said that till 2020, low-skilled and routine jobs in the space like testing, system administration, infrastructure administration, operations, BPOs are likely to be hit. “Economists are already worrying about “job polarisation”, where middle- skill jobs (such as those in manufacturing) are declining but both lowskill and high-skill jobs are expanding.”
Companies are resorting to training employees in machine learning and the use of artificial intelligence either in-house or through tie-ups with different colleges and universities. Siddharth Sangwan, executive search leader at Korn Ferry Futurestep, said that organisations are being nimble about the roles getting created and becoming redundant. “This is making for a very frugal workforce, one which has the ability to be more broad-based in their skill sets,” he said.
Despite the worrying trends, it has been noted in the past that technology has created more jobs than it destroys. That is because of the way automation works in practice, explains David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.