Skills for Future Jobs

A set of propositions about skills needed for future work in India

Over five million young people are expected to enter India’s labor force every year over the next decade. Meaningful and sustainable economic participation, already constrained by the ‘service led’ structure of Indian economic growth over the past two decades, will be further stressed by the rapid pace and ubiquitous scope of technological advancement. Technologies for artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, 3D printing, cloud computing, among others, are displacing existing jobs and work processes. Many of today’s jobs may no longer exist in the next ten years, while many others will be transformed or created anew.

Job growth has indeed been slow over the past decades, but low levels of education and skilling are equally serious impediments to accessing and responding to new opportunities. While the exact impact on labor markets is hard to predict, it is clear that the low-skilled segment of the population faces a greater threat from technological displacement. Yet, advanced digital and manufacturing technologies can also act as economic levellers, facilitating adaptive self- learning opportunities and creating new avenues for value creation. To leverage this opportunity, the question of skilling requires urgent and imaginative policy attention.

Government-led skilling initiatives are predominantly oriented towards sector specific technical or vocational training. While these skills are important, they are not broad-based enough to adequately prepare for the technology led-disruptions to the future of work. As routine manual tasks become increasingly automated, as the availability of large amounts of data creates new complex choices and decisions, and as the blurring of physical and virtual spaces creates new forms of working and collaboration, a more holistic and interoperable set of skills will become increasingly important. Building these core skills will allow for the development of meaningful and sustainable career pathways.

  • Foundational knowledge and meta-skills will continue to be important, particularly to facilitate learnability.
  • Humanistic, Communication, and Creativity skills will become more valuable, especially in the service sectors.
  • Digital Literacy alone will not be enough. Digital Fluency will be crucial.
  • Data Science skills will be critical for seizing digital economy opportunities.
  • The design and delivery of skilling programs must address gender based exclusionary practices.
  • Skilling initiatives will need to be oriented toward building meaningful careers, rather than specific job profiles.

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