There have been many dystopian predictions about how advances in technology would take jobs away from humans, replacing them with machines. During the Industrial Revolution, the rise of machines was largely confined to blue-collar workers. Technology is now learning white-collar skills, but how worried should we be about this disruption entering our workplaces?
Economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee argue that while technology have made many jobs redundant over the years, we might not yet be looking at a completely jobless future. In a worldfilled with disruptive and new technologies, we will see a job market that has many new roles and skill requirements that didn't exist even a decade ago. We are already witnessing a trend in the decline of many traditional industries and a whole new set of skills will be required in order to succeed in the future.
A number of jobs are at risk of becoming obsolete as we rush to embrace technology and big data. India is a prime example of this with the government's focus on digitization. Technology and digital platforms offer a massive opportunity for businesses to connect and interact with customers in a more personalized, consistent and instant manner. And the banking industry has been quick to adapt. Online banking is crucial today for banks and digitized interfaces are replacing traditional customer facing roles, a process that was started years ago with automated tellers - ATMs.
Think of the massive workforce employed in the Indian postal services. Globally, postal workers are one of the groups most affected by job automation. From sorting the post office to mail delivery, machines can today perform tasks much quicker than human workers. This can prove to be a huge threat for a country that today boasts one of the largest postal networks in the world!
If you're thinking these are low-skilled or unskilled jobs and a robot couldn't do your job, think again. Legal firms are already using software called Lex Machina that uses complicated algorithms to predict the outcome of patent lawsuits. If lawyers can be replaced by machines, anyone can.
But it's not time to throw up your hands in despair yet - there are plenty of positive effects to this change as well, particularly in the creation of entirely new jobs that didn't exist earlier. The government's thrust towards 'Digital India' will create millions of new jobs, including many that simply didn't exist 10 years ago - such as social media managers, SEO experts, bloggers, app developers, sustainability experts, to a name a few.
Many companies have only recently woken up to the fact that they need to have a social media presence. Only a few years ago companies clamped down on staff using social media, banning employees from mentioning the company on various platforms and restricting access to the sites during working hours. Now companies realize they need to have a 'voice' in the new world and this means being active on social media. This has resulted in high demand for social media managers to look after the corporate accounts and client accounts, and employees are usually actively encouraged to engage with the corporate social accounts. Brands are also employing community and social media managers to actively engage with customers via social media.
The advertising industry used to be the sole preserve of the print and TV media. Now digital advertising is growing exponentially and this has opened up a whole raft of new roles from digital marketing managers to SEO experts. These roles are at the forefront of the industry and those who were quick enough to convert have reaped and continue to reap the benefits.
While there are roles that have the potential to become obsolete in the future, we are not heading towards employment armageddon. The fact that so many roles we are hiring for didn't exist 10 years ago indicates there are as yet huge potential opportunities when it comes to new roles and jobs. Rather than losing jobs from the market, technology is changing them. The same number, if not more roles, are available today-they are just in different sectors, which means that employees very much need to ensure they have the right skills that employers are looking for. Employers need candidates who are technologically aware and have skills that take account of the changing environment.
Sanjay Modi is the MD, Monster.com
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