Bharat Doshi - How Do We Retrain Vulnerable Older Workers for the Jobs of the Future?

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Mar 12, 2019
by Bharat Doshi
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Bharat Doshi - How Do We Retrain Vulnerable Older Workers for the Jobs of the Future?

Chairman of Mahindra Intertrade Ltd asks this month's "Salzburg Questions for Corporate Governance" Bharat Doshi at the 2018 meeting of the Salzburg Global Corporate Governance Forum

This article is part of the series, the Salzburg Questions for Corporate Governance by the Salzburg Global Corporate Governance Forum. Join in the discussion on LinkedIn

Most discussions on artificial intelligence and Robotics commence with the premise that automation leads to efficiency and cost reduction. Any expression of fear about job losses in these discussions is often met with a rebuttal that “in the last 25 years many more jobs have been created than lost – not least due to automation” (quote from a Deloitte study).

Over the years, in the last century, it was observed that technological advances were disruptive and immediate job losses were temporary and more than made up by the new jobs created. However, such advances left an impact during the transition period leaving the vulnerable section of employees jobless and demoralized. Observations across industries and several studies indicate that those affected but who are already above 60 in age anyway retire. Those who are young and middle-aged below 50 are retrained with employers investing in them. The most vulnerable are those who are 50 and around in age who are still fit to work, who have the maximum social responsibility across three generations – whose children are still studying at universities and whose parents need to be cared for and looked after. Will this vulnerable section be put out to pasture or will they struggle and survive in the mainstream?

As every advance in technology has shown, it leads to obsolescence whether it be for the product or for the people who produce that product. The pace of change in the last century kept these challenges within reach but, over the last couple of decades, this pace itself has multiplied manifold. It is in this context that one has to see what artificial intelligence would do to the job market and whether the creation of new jobs will outperform the fast vanishing obsolete jobs in the market.

As a seasoned observer, I have noticed that slogans such as learn, un-learn, re-learn or retain, retrain, recruit remain just slogans for those who are older employees and the investment in retraining and catch up is focused on younger employees to get maximum returns on investment. If employers decide that investments required for training are best incurred on younger workforce between 30 and 50 and then ease out those above 50 under voluntary retirement schemes, the challenge before society would not just be unemployment but also mass demoralization.

The following questions facing employers are relevant for this discussion.

  1. Should employers ignore advances in technology and continue the old practices just to save the workforce? This course would mean higher costs than competitors and therefore ultimate extinction.
  2. Should the employer continuously adopt new technologies and continue to retrain their workforce and take hard decisions for those who cannot be retrained? Where does the company/employer responsibility lie? Where does it end?
  3. Can employers be proactive in anticipating changes in technology and create an environment of continuous learning and taking responsibility for ascertaining easier jobs and assignments for those who cannot further learn?

It is anticipated that artificial intelligence in the next decade, will permeate in every area of work making tasks simpler and eliminating non-value added activities. Employers would look at the AI experts for forecasting newer areas for jobs and for identifying the training needs required in short and medium term.

One hopes that experts and thought leaders can simultaneously deal with this challenge, as artificial intelligence is bound to progress at a breakneck speed.

One school of thought believes that more advances in the application of artificial intelligence would lead to lower cost of living, lower working hours and more leisure time to retrain and relearn.

Let us end on this comforting note for the vulnerable workforce.

References

Garimella, K. (2018). Job Loss From AI? There's More To Fear!. [online] Forbes.com. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/cognitiveworld/2018/08/07/job-loss-from-ai-theres-more-to-fear/#1662ee1f23eb [Accessed 12 Mar. 2019].

Luca, M., Kleinberg, J. and Mullainathan, S. (2016). Algorithms Need Managers, Too. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: https://hbr.org/2016/01/algorithms-need-managers-too [Accessed 12 Mar. 2019].

Manyika, J., Lund, S., Chui, M., Bughin, J., Woetzel, J., Batra, P., Ko, R. and Sanghvi, S. (n.d.). Jobs lost, jobs gained: What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages. [online] McKinsey & Company. Available at: https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/jobs-lost-jobs-gained-what-the-future-of-work-will-mean-for-jobs-skills-and-wages [Accessed 12 Mar. 2019].

Courtenay, A. (2018). Over 50 and out to pasture? Time for employers and government to stamp out age discrimination. [online] Intheblack.com. Available at: https://www.intheblack.com/articles/2018/09/01/over-50-and-time-to-stamp-out-age-discrimination [Accessed 12 Mar. 2019].

Have an opinion? 

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Bharat Doshi is the chairman of Mahindra Intertrade Limited and a director on the board of Mahindra Holdings Limited. He is also an independent director and chairman of the audit committee of Godrej Consumer Products Limited and an independent director and member of the audit committee of Dr. Reddy's Laboratories Limited. Bharat was nominated by the government of India as a director on the Central Board of the Reserve Bank of India in March 2016 for a period of four years. Bharat served as the president of Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the year 2009-10. He was also the executive director and Group chief financial officer of Mahindra & Mahindra Limited, the flagship company of the Mahindra Group, before he retired from his executive position in 2013.


The Salzburg Questions for Corporate Governance is an online discussion series introduced and led by Fellows of the Salzburg Global Corporate Governance Forum. The articles and comments represent opinions of the authors and commenters, and do not necessarily represent the views of their corporations or institutions, nor of Salzburg Global Seminar. Readers are welcome to address any questions about this series to Forum Director, Charles E. Ehrlich: cehrlich@salzburgglobal.org To receive a notification of when the next article is published, follow Salzburg Global Seminar on LinkedIn or sign up for email notifications here: www.salzburgglobal.org/go/corpgov/newsletter