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 Aneja is Founding Director of Tandem Research. Her work examines the ways in which digital technologies are restructuring political, economic, and social relations in India, and the global south. She has written extensively on the ethics and governance of artificial intelligence, labor wellbeing and rights in a gig economy, and the politics of international aid and civil society networks. Urvashi is also Associate Fellow at Chatham House and has served on government committees on artificial intelligence and frontier technologies. She has a PhD from the Department of Politics & International Relations, University of Oxford. Previously, she was Associate Professor of International Relations at the OP Jindal Global University and Research Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation.

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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