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Automation, AI and the Future of Work in India

Hammer, A and Karmakar, S (2021) 'Automation, AI and the Future of Work in India.' Employee Relations. ISSN 0142-5455

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Purpose: This research contributes to current debates on automation and the future of work, a much-hyped but under researched area, in emerging economies through a particular focus on India. It assesses the national strategy on artificial intelligence and explores the impact of automation on the Indian labour market, work and employment to inform policy. Design/methodology/approach: The article critically assesses the National Strategy on AI, promulgated by NITI Aayog (a national policy think tank), supported by the government of India and top industry associations, through a sectoral analysis. The key dimensions of the national strategy are examined against scholarship on the political economy of work in India to better understand the possible impact of automation on work. Findings: The study shows that technology is not free from the wider dynamics that surround the world of work. The adoption of new technologies is likely to occur in niches in the manufacturing and services sectors, while its impact on employment and the labour market more broadly, and in addressing societal inequalities will be limited. The national strategy, however, does not take into account the nature of capital accumulation and structural inequalities that stem from a large informal economy and surplus labour context with limited upskilling opportunities. This raises doubts about the effectiveness of the current policy. Research limitations/implications: The critical assessment of new technologies and work has two implications: first, it underscores the need for situated analyses of social and material relations of work in formulating and assessing strategies and policies; second, it highlights the necessity of qualitative workplace studies that examine the relationship between technology and the future of work. Practical implications: The article assesses an influential state policy in a key aspect of future of work–automation. Social implications: The policy assessed in this study would have significant social and economic outcomes for labour, work and employment in India. The study highlights the limitations of the state policy in addressing key labour market dimensions and work and employment relations in its formulation and implementation. Originality/value: This study is the first to examine the impact of automation on work and employment in India. It provides a critical intervention in current debates on future of work from the point of view of an important emerging economy defined by labour surplus and a large informal economy.

Item Type: Article
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Essex Business School
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 22 Apr 2021 08:52
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2021 20:15

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