The Future of Jobs

If this challenge is to be succinctly & quantitatively dished out, it would be this: the world will lose 75 million current jobs within next few years, but it will generate 133 million new jobs within the same period of time (World Economic Forum report, 2018). Now, this is bad as well as the good news, at the same time. To know whether we fall into the category of people who should be excited to welcome this transition or who are amongst those who should dread the future for our students- can be determined by understanding what would cause such disruption in the job market. With the inexorable advancement of technology in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), the entire landscape of the global labor market is changing – with machines & algorithms proving to be efficient alternatives to the human workforce. Some may assume these changes to impact only the technology industry, but there’s hardly any domain that doesn’t employ technology. Whether you are a doctor or a manager in the oil & gas company, this is about everyone.

Technology does take away jobs, as referred to in the opening statement. However, it creates more jobs than it kills. The solution lies in understanding it and designing our education system, not only as per the current trends but those that our students will encounter after they graduate. Ironically, our higher education sector is decades behind the current requirements, let alone the future trends. For employers, the key is re-skilling and up-skilling their workforce. Automation of tasks is true but it’ll be more of an augmentation wherein we need a human to work using automation. This requires humans to master this technology. According to a World Bank report, 69% of the jobs in India can be replaced by automation. High-speed mobile internet, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, and cloud technology are all set to drive businesses by 2022, as per WEF. One investment intention survey shows that 85% of respondents said they are likely/very likely to adopt big data analytics, in next 3 years. As far as artificial intelligence is concerned, 71% of total task hours were performed by humans in 2018 compared to 29% by robots. Interestingly in 2022, it’s estimated that for the same tasks, only 58% will be executed by humans while the machine’s share would spike up to 42%. So, some of the roles that would be in high demand are AI and machine learning specialists, Big data Specialists, Process automation experts, Information & security analysts, User experience & human-machine interaction designers, Robotics engineers, & Blockchain specialists. Onto the core business side, it would be the Digital marketers, Social media specialists, roles that require human skills like Sales & Marketing professionals, Customer service, Training & development, People & Culture, and Innovation managers.

The skills required to assume these roles are majorly those that the machines can’t have. These are creativity, originality, initiative, critical thinking, persuasion, attention to detail, resilience, flexibility & complex problem-solving skills. One of the most important qualities is going to be emotional intelligence (EI), followed by leadership skills and social influence. The whole idea is not to prepare to compete with machines since that’s not possible. They have won the computational & dexterity war against us. We need to hone human skills in us. And that’s something they can’t win against. The synergy created out of a successful team building is going to play a phenomenal role.  A small example is that of post offices back in the day which has been completely replaced by the email and Whatsapp revolution. Your job of sending a message may still remain but you would need to master two skills: new technological media and your writing skills. Your knowledge about the functioning of the post office is obsolete.

Cloud technology, Embedded systems, and Internet of things are the future. While all this is going on, we are producing workers who would either stay unemployed or at the best be under-employed. Our students can’t foresee it. Even if some do, they can’t change anything in the system. It’s us who have to stop doing a disservice to them by wasting their years with hackneyed and useless curricula and traditional pedagogy while selling them false hopes with a disclaimer- ‘only if they work hard’. If there are some alumni who are doing well in life, it’s not because of our system; it is despite our regressive system. They up-skill themselves and catch up with the pace. Who’s to be blamed here? It’s neither students nor their faculty. It’s those in the power who ought to have a vision; it’s those who are into policy-making.

To end this with yet another small example, robotic surgery or robot-assisted surgery is a current reality. No matter how efficient our surgeon is if s/he hasn’t been trained to work with a robot, how’s s/he going to thrive? or what good is his/her efficiency, given the modus operandi of surgery is changing.

We need to rise and prepare our students for the future, with a multidisciplinary approach. Graduate-producing-factories need to go or adapt to the new requirements. Now you can determine whether our students should be excited about the new 133 million jobs or be dejected about the loss of traditional 75 million.