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Machines vs Blue-Collars: Jobs on the Line as the Power Struggle Intensifies

Artificial Intelligence has been at the forefront of the technological revolution for many years now. Manufacturing, IT, health and other industries have been gripped by emerging technologies in automation. 

While the advancement has brought a respite in terms of cost and time, it has also thrown plenty of challenges for humans to think about and tackle. One such challenge is AI tech usurping blue-collar workers from their jobs, taking complete control.

The onus is on humans. If we aren’t smart enough with automation, it will, in fact, overthrow humans. But if we are, it can a boon and offer solutions for economic development.

Blue-Collar Automation in India: How Does it Look?

Improved productivity, high quality, and at a low cost — this is what every business wishes to attain in order to drive growth. Unfortunately for blue-collar workers in the manufacturing industry, the triad of productivity, quality, and cost, brought about by automation is supplanting them.

Take Maruti Suzuki India Ltd as an example. In their Gurgaon Manesar plant alone, there is a robot for every 4 workers; that’s 5000 robots in just one plant.

According to a report by PwC-Assocham on “Artificial Intelligence and Robotics – 2017”, the Make in India initiative could propel the country’s production competence, but might also not be competent enough to create as many jobs as predicted.

Another report published by Carnegie India underlines the growing influence of automation, the human dependence on it, and how it will put blue-collar workers out of business. It takes the example of Foxconn, a leading manufacturer of robots and automated instruments, whose robots are capable of performing more than 10 types of manufacturing tasks.

So, how does this spell disaster for blue-collar workers? 

Well, as much as 60,000 workers lost their jobs to robots in one Foxconn factory situated in China. And they’re on the road to have more robots in their workers. In fact, China plans to have at least 30 robots for every 10,000 workers.

This spells disaster for blue-collar workers in India as more Chinese manufacturers open up factories in the country. This move will force India-based manufacturers to do the same in order to compete, thereby stamping out the only option left with Indian blue-collar workers to find employment.

Dependence on Automation To Continue: Blue-Collar Workforce in Peril?

There’s a bar set for blue-collar workers who will be losing jobs. According to a report by MIT, workers earning less than $20 per hour are at risk of losing jobs to automation.

AI and Machine Learning (ML) are capable of coming up with cutting-edge technologies that can replace humans in labour-intensive jobs.

But, It’s Not All Bad News….

Automation has, in fact, also created more blue-collar jobs. Take delivery boy jobs for example. Companies like Ola, Uber, Swiggy, Zomato hire blue-collar job seekers in bulk to conduct their businesses successfully.

And it’s not just them. Many startups and businesses thrive on blue-collar workers. So, you see, automation isn’t too bad at all. 

But, it is a double-edged sword. These jobs can easily be handled by machines like drones and self-driving cars which aren’t distant realities.

Should Blue-collars Do Nothing About It?

Of course not!

In order to keep up with intelligent machines, blue-collar workers must upskill themselves and be in the know-how of AI, ML, and data analytics. And this development must be continuous.

As a matter of fact, employers have already started training their workforce in these spheres. But the numbers are few and far between. More should join the cause in order to train employees about the ever-changing disruption landscape and how they can quickly adapt to it with the least effort.

The transition must be smooth as the blue-collar crowd might not be well-versed in automation. The digitalisation of business operations must be communicated to the workers, and they must be made aware of how they can contribute effectively by undergoing a skill makeover.

Upskilling: A Big Ask for Employees, But Not Impossible

The need for upskilling is a challenge for employers as blue-collars might not be familiar with automation and its scope. 

The trick is not to rush them. This is a whole new ballgame for them so forcing it down their throats only will only breed anxiety. Give them time, be clear about your intentions and adopt the steps given below to upgrade them.

#1 Craft In-depth Training Modules

  • Personalize training modules and materials by providing translations in local languages
  • Introduce multimedia (video & audio) content 
  • Start with the basics, understand their reactions, answer their queries and then proceed to other topics 

#2 Understand How They Perceive Automation

  • Identify areas where the workforce lags in terms of skills
  • Ascertain workforce capacity for market-specific transitions
  • Combine the two steps given above to create training modules down the line 

#3 Equip Them with More Than Just Technical Knowledge

  • Supplement technical knowledge with people, social, and communication skills training
  • Assess critical thinking and provide courses on its improvement
  • Combine the two steps given above to strategically transition business and workforce 

#4 One Size Cannot Fit All

  • Create unique training material for individuals from varying demographics
  • Engage managers and seniors proactively in the training program
  • Encourage peer-to-peer learning and interaction with white-collars 
  • Leverage learning management systems
  • Reward and recognize workers
  • Stamp out employee bias and hierarchies

Automation has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Humans developed it with the aim to provide assistance and to replace manual labour. And so far, they haven’t disappointed. As things stand, they’re putting the livelihood of the blue-collars at risk and also creating new opportunities with each passing moment. Now it’s up to the employers and the blue-collar crowd on how they react to this — stay where they’re at and be replaced by machines or upskill themselves to stay relevant.

Author Bio:

Digvijay Singh Kanwar is a professional content writer and digital marketing expert and he loves to write about finance and tech based articles. For more details, you can contact him at [email protected]

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