Indian workers are the most likely to be replaced by robots—at least that’s what their bosses think

You’ve got to skill up to stay relevant.
You’ve got to skill up to stay relevant.
Image: Reuters/Amit Dave
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

While automation has struck some fear in the heart of the average worker, most employers expect it to actually create jobs. Well, most employers outside of India, that is.

Some 83% of bosses globally expect automation to “bring a net gain for employment,” according to The Skills Revolution (pdf), a new report from multinational HR consulting firm ManpowerGroup. The report covered 18,000 employers across 43 countries and territories.

However, things are a little grim in India. While globally, just 12% expect headcount to decrease due to automation, that number jumps to between 20% and 30% for India.

Digitization impacting headcount
Digitization impacting headcount
Image: ManpowerGroup

To be sure, automation stands to take over or change many jobs that primarily involve mundane, repetitive tasks. But there will still be plenty of room for skilled workers.

“Those with the right skills will increasingly call the shots, create opportunities and choose how, where and when they work,” ManpowerGroup CEO Jonas Prising said in the report.

That’s hardly reassuring for India. Skilled workers constitute just 2.3% of the country’s labor force, according to government estimates (pdf). That compares with 96% in South Korea, 80% in Japan, and 75% in Germany. While India’s central government offers vocational training meant to bridge this gap—one such initiative (pdf) aims to train at least 300 million skilled workers by 2022—a 2012 Oxford study (pdf) suggests that the system fails to reach 90% of the country’s working population.

For the first quarter of 2017, India did record one of the world’s best net employment outlooks, a metric created by subtracting the percentage of employers planning to reduce headcount from the percentage planning to hire. There are 24% more of those intending to hire this quarter in India than those aiming to cut down on staff.

That outlook is on the decline, though, and has been for a full year. In the first quarter of 2016, 43% more Indian employers planned to hire than reduce headcount.

If skilled labor is a black cloud on India’s workforce prospects, the country’s nearly $160 billion information technology sector is one silver lining. Globally, IT tops the list of industries most likely to see hiring this quarter. Last year, India’s IT sector accounted for 9.3% of its GDP.