Will machines take over human jobs?

The fourth Industrial Revolution (also called Industry 4.0) has brought in a paradigm shift in the global manufacturing sector. Advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics have increased the use of automation and brought irreversible shift in the structure of jobs.

Automation has enabled seamless operations across production and distribution chains, and also simplified the process in the assembly line. Companies across the globe also pump more into automation to boost productivity and cut costs.

Since the Industrial Revolution, the manufacturing sector has witnessed a lot of changes, putting several individual craftsmen out of business.

However, increasing use of automation in the manufacturing sector, which is set for complete automation in the near future, has made a colossal impact on the workforce, with many tedious and repetitive jobs being displaced.

At a time when governments in developing countries are scrambling to boost job creation, increasing automation in the manufacturing sector, which is a major contributor to gross domestic product (GDP) in countries such as India, has posed a major threat to their dream.

According to a research by the World Bank, automation is expected to affect around 69% jobs in India, 77% in China, and 85% in Ethiopia.

Advancement in technologies has always disrupted the nature of works, with new technologies always bringing in extensive and rapid transformation in industries, leading to people reinventing themselves to find new jobs.

Around 15% or 400 million workers worldwide would be displaced by 2030 due to automation, according to a McKinsey report.

Other sectors such as pharmaceutical, IT and ITeS, financial, etc., in countries such as India are also witnessing a gradual adoption of robots and automation, which may lead to a skill shortage in these sectors in the next several years.

Although technological sophistication, which has already caused polarization of the workplace, will eliminate a lot of jobs, especially unskilled, low-skilled junior level, mid-level process, and project management jobs, they have also opened many new avenues for employees and companies in the manufacturing industry.

According to a Gartner Research report, though 1.8 million jobs will be lost due to automation and modern technologies by 2020, around 2.3 million new jobs will be generated.

Until the early 1990s, the position of a web developer did not exist; however, in the 2000s, the number of students choosing computer software engineering increased multiple times. With the emergence of self-driving cars and smart technologies, demand for jobs related to their maintenance and repair will also shoot up in the coming years.

Moreover, there would be a surge in AI-related jobs and more and more people would start to focus on topics related to AI. With increasing demand for such jobs, institutes and universities would tweak their curriculum to increase focus on AI-related topics. Going forward, demand for manual and physical labor will see a dip, and instead, demand for digital and advanced technology skills will witness a huge increase.

Similarly, cognitive skills including, critical thinking, problem-solving, and complex information processing will see high demand.

Simply saying, those who have the ability to synchronize their technical expertise with human values could survive in the changing job roles in future. Furthermore, with new-age job roles requiring workers with new skill sets, companies will have to spend more for upskilling and re-skilling programs for their workforce.

With rising technological sophistication, the complexity of work environments will increase, leading to higher demand for employees who excel at skills that cannot be replicated by machines.

Although the manufacturing industry would bring forward several challenges, it would also open more doors and opportunities, leading to polarization of the workforce.