India among countries most vulnerable, least prepared for automation in Asia-Pacific

01 Sep 2021

The recently released The Future of Work is Now: 

Is APAC Ready? research study by Deloitte, commissioned by Autodesk Foundation, explores the state of automation and the future of work across 12 Asia-Pacific (APAC) countries including Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The research finds India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are most at risk and least prepared for the coming wave of automation. In particular, India ranks fifth highest in terms of the impact from automation and ninth in terms of level preparedness for this impact. The country faces a greater likelihood of being impacted by automation owing to larger employment shares in agriculture, manufacturing and construction, all identified as high-risk industries by the report. COVID-19 has greatly accelerated the adoption of automation across the world. According to the report, close to half of all businesses intend to increase their adoption of robotic process automation over the next year.

“Automation creates opportunities for new, more meaningful types of work as it replaces mundane or repetitive manual tasks, but the state of preparedness of countries and industries will determine whether they benefit from these advances,” says Rajeev Mittal, Regional Director, India & SAARC, Autodesk. 

“Improving digital literacy, supporting disadvantaged workers and putting in place the right infrastructure and skills will help create new roles that workers can transition into.”

Construction, agriculture and mining are most at risk of automation, reveals the report. Though India’s construction sector is most likely to be automated, its construction sector is the fifth most vulnerable, ahead of Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Myanmar and the Philippines, respectively, because of these countries’ greater extent of disadvantage. With a high proportion of routine and manual tasks and low year-on-year global productivity growth (1 per cent, over the past 20 years to 2017), the construction industry is the most likely to be one of the hardest hit by automation across all countries in APAC. India’s mining sector has the second-highest risk of impact from automation after Bangladesh. The sector's vulnerability to automation stems from its relatively low skill requirements, high degree of routine and manual tasks, and use of direct physical activity to operate machinery. Mining comprises less than 1% of the workforce in 10 out of 12 countries analysed, suggesting that automation in mining is well underway. “The pandemic has accelerated demand for automation across sectors, which will greatly transform how companies in India do business,” adds Mittal. “Autodesk’s view has long been that automation creates opportunity, but only if we are deliberate about giving workers the skills they need to thrive in a new era of automation. That means new credentialing and certification programmes to give them the skills they need to succeed, partnerships across the public and private sector to make workforce development a priority, and much more.”

As well as identifying the challenges facing regions and industries in APAC, the report also highlights a series of proactive steps that should be taken to harness the benefits and address the risks.

The report concludes that automation will create opportunity if the right support mechanisms are put in place and the focus is put squarely on helping workers to succeed.