Emerging Technologies & the Future of Work in India

We examine the likely impact of 4IR technologies on job displacement, employment conditions, and labor market inequities in India.

Global narratives on the impact of 4IR need to be localised and reexamined. While new technologies will be developed and deployed globally, the impact on the future of work will be mediated through local political, legal and socio-economic structures.

This study examines the likely impact of 4IR on the Future of Work in India, with a specific focus on job-displacement, employment conditions, and labor market inequities in India.

With official labor data largely limited to the organized sector and 4IR still at an emergent stage, this study presents its findings in terms of propositions about the likely impact of 4IR over the next five to ten years. It would be pertinent to note that propositions are statements of high likelihood and plausibility, not predictions. In so far as the adoption of 4IR technology will be shaped by India’s particular socio-economic and political context, it follows that technology trajectories are not a neutral force. The study accordingly emphasizes the socio-political dimensions of technological trajectories and their impact.

How will technology trajectories and their impact on jobs in India vary from those identified globally, for industrialized economies, given India's socio-economic context? Which sectors and job types will experience the most labor disruptions and where will new jobs be created?

Automation and Job Displacement
  • High automation potential of routine tasks will reduce labor mobility

  • Adoption in organized manufacturing and services will be in niches

  • Construction and agriculture will experience incremental mechanization

  • Unorganized sector will benefit from microtechnology

How will employment relationships and conditions be altered? How will technology trajectories intersect with persistent informality India?

Employment Conditions
  • Growth in the platform economy will reorganize informality

  • Increasing contractual work within the organized sector

  • Increasing shift from wage employment to self-employment

How will the quality of work change and how might this recast social relationships? Which social groups are likely to be the most impacted?

Inequities in Labor Markets
  • Gender inequities will persist, even as women avail new opportunities

  • Marginalized communities will be further marginalized

Authors

Urvashi Aneja

Urvashi studies the politics, social impacts, and ethics of technology transitions in the global south. She has written extensively on the challenges and risks of AI in India, the emerging gig economy and labor well-being, data governance and gender and technology. She has served on government committees for artificial intelligence and frontier technologies. Urvashi is also an Associate Fellow at Chatham House, a Tech and Social justice champion at the World Economic Forum, and a former member of the T20 Task Force for the Future of Work in the G20. She regularly writes for national media publications and has been quoted in the BBC, Reuters, CNBC, Times of India, and Indian Express, among others. Previously she was a Research Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation and Associate Professor at the Jindal School of International Affairs. Urvashi has a Doctorate from the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Oxford

Vikrom Mathur

Vikrom believes that interdisciplinary research on cultural attitudes towards nature and technology need to inform contemporary debates on societal futures. His research interests include the governance of emerging technologies, social and cultural dimensions of technological transitions, cultural perceptions of environmental risk, dynamics between science and policy, and Cultural Theory. He is currently setting up India’s first Urban Living Lab in Panjim as a platform to design, test and fine-tune socio-technical innovation in local urban spaces. He has a PhD from the Institute of Science, Society, and Innovation at the University of Oxford.

Ira Anjali Anwar

Ira Anjali Anwar is a former Research Fellow with Tandem Research.

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