Technology will continue to kill IT jobs—but there’s still hope for Indian engineers

The times they are a-changin’.
The times they are a-changin’.
Image: Reuters/Vivek Prakash
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Once a powerhouse of job creation, India’s IT sector has slammed the brakes on hiring in recent months, even as newer industries like e-commerce and food technology increase recruitment.

The $150 billion IT services industry is among the sectors most disinclined to hire between October 2017 and March 2018, according to a survey by recruitment firm TeamLease. “Paradigm shifts in business models of IT service businesses are upending talent acquisition and firms are hiring strictly on a need-basis,” the report said.

But technological advancement is also changing the genre of jobs, replacing low-end and repetitive roles with complex and high-skill ones, according to Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder and executive vice-president of TeamLease Services. “Say, if it’s eating away two jobs where the guys would earn Rs25,000, it’s creating one job where he will earn Rs50,000-60,000, compelling people to become more productive,” Chakraborty told Quartz.

Trading old roles for robots

Till a couple of years ago, the IT sector was among India’s top job creators. Firms like Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys, and Wipro recruited thousands every year. But automation reversed this trend.

Infosys, for instance, logged a marked 65% decrease in hiring in 2016 over the previous year. TCS’s hiring in 2016 fell by more than 10,000 compared to the year before, and the firm is expected to downsize even further. Going forward, the company’s net employee intake will be even lower than the 79,000 it hired in 2016, TCS human resource head Ajoy Mukherjee told The Economic Times in April this year.

Most other IT firms, too, are going slow on “mass hiring” as they shift to smaller teams handling more sophisticated operations and let robots take over jobs like server maintenance and data entry. However, demand remains high for niche skills like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and big data, Chakraborty said. And it is not just in IT. “Industry-agnostic” skills let people work anywhere, from banking, financial services & insurance to healthcare to education to retail, she explained.

Rise of new tech

Meanwhile, new technology firms continue to hire big time. E-commerce companies and other tech startups are among the most optimistic, TeamLease said.

“Having weathered demonetisation, and tackling enormous changes wrought by GST (goods and services tax), the e-commerce sector is managing to generate more consumer demand,” the report noted. “The demand for data analysts, machine learning/artificial intelligence experts, UX/UI (user experience/user interface) designers and similar niche profiles is propelling job creation.”