As the buzz around automation and AI rises, how worried should we be about losing our jobs to machines? As per a recent study by Sunil Mani, Professor and Director at the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), Thiruvananthapuram, not much.
In a first of its kind study on the use of industrial robots in India, Mani noted that though the number of robots deployed by Indian companies has increased but the number of industrial robots in India is still too small to cause job scare.
As per the study, the number of industrial robots in India in 2016 at 16,026 accounts for merely 0.1% of India’s industrial workforce.
Meanwhile, the total number of industrial robots in India rose from just 70 in 2,000 to 16,026 in 2016.
Mani’s analysis is based on the latest data from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) and the Annual Survey of Industries (ASI). The data shows that the density of robots per 10,000 manufacturing workers has increased from less than 1 in 2,000 to almost 10 in 2016.
His study also suggests that the use of robots in India, like everywhere else, has been largely concentrated in tasks which are very difficult for human workers to do.
The study stated, “The use of industrial robots is concentrated in two main tasks: handling/machines tending and welding and soldering. The single-largest application or task where robots are used is welding, and within it, arc and spot welding. In fact, there is a remarkable stability in the tasks where robots are used in the late 1980s and now."
Also, it notes that within the manufacturing industry, much of the robot installations are in four industries—automotive; electrical and electronics; metal; chemical, rubber and plastics.
"There has been a 27 per cent increase in the number of delivered robots in 2017 compared to 2016 and on an average, it has increased by 64 per cent per annum since 2000," the study revealed. It however notes that there is some underestimation of employment in the organized sector.
While the low percentage of industrial robots is a solace, however Mani cautions that with significant developments in AI, robots are becoming more flexible and this may lead to automation of a number of tasks, which were previously thought to be non-automatable.
Recently, there has been much news of automation in the field of HR as well. Last month, Stafory, a startup based out of St. Petersburg, Russia, unveiled robot Vera, which is almost that taking over a recruiter’s job and is being used to interview prospective employees. As per Pankaj Bansal, Founder and CEO, PeopleStrong, about 40% of a recruiter’s job will vanish in the future.
While the threat to Indian jobs might not be immediate, it’s still a sign that the impetus should be on imparting high-quality education and skilling.