Future of Work: The India Story

Automation and digitalization is bringing rapid transformation at workplace and in our daily lives as well. New business models are being evolved on the expectation that workers will forego employment contracts and social security, only to forget the notion of a regular working schedule where work, family and leisure can be balanced – something for which workers’ and their organizations have stood for collectively years together.

Photo: FES

Photo: FES

With the world facing the fourth industrial revolution, popularly known as Industry 4.0, the International Labour Organisation has launched the Future of Work Initiative to understand and respond to the changes taking place, right from the use of technology, changing character of production and employment and impact of climate change, to name a few. Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) India is supportive of ILO’s Future of Work Commission which is tasked to chalk a pathway for full employment and decent work in the face of technological change and general employment practices. These challenges become more pertinent in case of emerging economies, such as India.

“People at large are not opposed to new technology but obviously remain concerned about their jobs in the future and whether they can cope with the changing times. Continued access to lifelong learning is critical, with technology impacting the tasks that workers do and thereby creating a continuous need for workers to be able to upgrade their skills”. 

The Indian economy is on a high growth trajectory and is recognized as one of the fastest growing economies of the world. Last year, India took a giant stride and jumped 30 places to be ranked 100th in the World Bank’s ease of doing business ranking. These are significant developments and augur well for the overall development projection. However, there are several challenges ahead as we talk about India’s growth story.

Unemployment is rising and so is widening of income disparities coupled with job polarization (low-skilled and high-skilled workforce). The informal economy continues to be huge and it is where the maximum job creation is taking place with workers typically having no standard employment contracts, poor health and safety conditions and often out of social protection realm.

"For FES, sound industrial relations and collaboration between workers and management is necessary to raise participation and involvement of workers. Strengthening gender equality is a condition for equal rights and equal opportunities in life and work. The advancement of national social protection floors ensuring basic securities aiming at alleviating poverty, vulnerability, and social exclusion should be fully implemented and effectively enforced in the times to come".

Although significant improvements in all these areas have been made in the last years in India, which is also acknowledged by the ILO, the creation of decent work conditions remains the primary goal and should be pursued through involvement of a variety of voices, new alliances, and innovative approaches. 

The world of work is changing fast. Structural transformation driven by technology and automation is generating new forms of employment. Different skill-sets and higher qualifications are needed to compete in a keenly contested global labour market. Challenges posed by this new economic paradigm should be dealt with all preparedness by emerging economies all over the world, including India which has a high age-appropriate population ready to join the workforce.  


Anup Srivastava is Program Adviser of the Labour and Industrial Relations project at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung India office in New Delhi. 

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