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The Impact Of Technology On Industrial Policy And Employment Creation

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The Indian economy was in a state of deceleration well before Covid-19 made its impact in early 2020. This can be inferred from the declining trends of four important macroeconomic variables that indicate the health of the economy in the last quarter of 2019.

According to the data released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI), quarterly GDP growth rate, industrial output in eight core sectors, gross tax revenue and demand for electricity had significantly plummeted by the end of 2019 from its previous trends to be noted as remarkable. Therefore, as far as the Indian economy was concerned, the Covid-19 pandemic and its long containment exacerbated an already dire situation.

While quoting the ILO and ADB report, Prof Francis Kuriakose said that Tackling the COVID-19 Youth Employment Crisis in Asia and the Pacific released in 2020 had estimated India’s youth unemployment at 32.5% with the loss of 6.1 million full-time jobs mainly in agriculture, construction and retail sectors as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Although the lifting of the lockdown and the beginning of economic activity is important, the revival of the health of the economy would require concerted policy action across many sectors with a long-term vision that anticipates economic opportunities and risks.

Employment remains an important question of interest to India in the 3rd decade of the 21st century because of internal factors such as demographic profile and external factors such as the structural changes to the world of work introduced by technology.

A webinar was jointly organised by Center for Work and Welfare (CWW) at Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMRPI) and Counterview on Industrial Policy for Innovation and Employment Creation: Challenges and Way Forward Towards Make in India & #AtmaNirbharBharat.

Impact of Automation

The fourth industrial revolution is the broader context in which the problem is situated and policy solutions sought. There are three main waves that the fourth industrial revolution brings for lower-middle-income countries such as India.

The first is automation and its associated job polarisation that impacts both wage levels and the structure of employment. In particular, automation in India has resulted in the change in labour composition and a decline in labour productivity and labour share in income in medium-high technology manufacturing. Job polarisation is one of the impacts by which middle-skill jobs that require routine cognitive and manual applications are automated while high and low-skill occupations are preserved.

As job polarisation co-exists with the excessive supply of secondary and tertiary educated labour force in India, educated middle-skill workers from middle-skill jobs have been pushed into relatively low-skill manufacturing and service occupations.

Technology-related automation also makes traditional manufacturing vulnerable to shocks. In India, the transition of agricultural labourers often from rural and peri-urban areas to low-skill manufacturing sectors such as construction and textiles in urban areas signals distress in the traditional manufacturing sector to employ these groups.

Therefore, the Indian unemployment problem in manufacturing and service sector from the skill-set perspective reveals that low-skill and middle-skill workers remain precarious and underemployed.

Impact of Big Data

The second wave of technology is that of big data and the opening of new middle-market segments of consumer-driven service sectors such as banking, finance, insurance, retail, healthcare and data analytics. Export-led industrialisation as a strategy of economic development for middle-income countries is increasingly being questioned because of the decreasing levels of value-added and employment growth in the manufacturing sector.

India Industry Automation
The rise of automation has also led to reshoring of parts of production back to high-income countries, depriving the middle-income countries of productivity and employment.

The shift of manufacturing to relatively a small number of countries has also led to the concentration of manufacturing activities globally. The sluggish growth of manufacturing in middle-income countries has been partly a result of declining demand due to low growth rates in high-income countries. The rise of automation has also led to reshoring of parts of production back to high-income countries, depriving the middle-income countries of productivity and employment.

Therefore, middle-income countries have increasingly examined development strategies through other means that include turning to the service sector, encouraging entrepreneurship in small and medium sectors and bundling services with manufacturing.

Demand management has been identified as an important factor in conceiving industrial policy. In this context, the advent of big data analytics opens up new market segments and introduces domestic market expansion as a strategy of economic development for middle-income countries poised with suitable human resources such as India.

The arrival of big data and the progressive digitalisation of technology through internet-of-things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) have resulted in two types of demand-led impacts in middle-income countries. First, big data opens up new market segments in various sectors by creating heterogeneous demand for differential varieties of existing product and services. Second, big data also opens up a new market for data analytics that permits the information technology industry to upgrade technology capability and diversify its product portfolio.

In the Indian data analytics industry, the presence of multi-product firms, an expanding domestic market and the presence of mature technology encourages demand-led product differentiation and competitive market.

Innovation Capabilities

The third and final wave is machine learning and IoT capabilities. The beginning of this wave is already altering innovation spaces, research and development in the medium to high-technology manufacturing in India, making them more competitive and export-oriented.

Another promising trajectory due to improved design capabilities is the upgrading of low-cost innovation projects. Frugal innovation is a type of design innovation approach in which low and middle-income economies provide a market to develop appropriate, adaptable, affordable and accessible services and products. The focus on core functionality, performance optimisation and cost minimisation differentiate frugality from a traditional mindset of innovation.

Compared to traditional innovation, frugal innovations have low technical intensity (relative volume of research and development expenditure) and technological complexity (number of internal components), but an inclusive impact on low-income or cost-conscious communities.

An increment in usability, quality or price-differentiation of an original frugal innovation results in second-degree frugal innovation called reverse innovation. Reverse innovations are disruptive as new entrants into established markets. With an additional investment in technology and managerial competency, frugal innovations could be introduced among cost-conscious customers even in high-income economies.

A New Industrial Policy Agenda

It is clear from the detailed understanding of the context that India needs to invest in three broad areas if the objective is to use the fourth industrial revolution to encourage human-centred economic growth. The first step is digital and research skilling of the tertiary-educated workforce through expansive public and private investment in training. This approach involves large-scale investment by the public sector and the private firms.

India has so far demonstrated a poor record in the investment on skill training provided by the private sector compared to competitors such as Vietnam or the Philippines. The second step is to establish institutional linkages across universities, public and private research centres to encourage marginal innovation by developing new products, processes and business models. This approach involves re-imagining the role of the state as innovation facilitator creating institutional channels that connect formal and informal sector as well as domestic and international players.

The third step is to focus on data governance issues such as localisation as part of industrial and innovation policy. The inclusion of data in industrial policy involves a serious and sustained conversation between various stakeholders to ensure equity and parity in participation and distribution of resources.

In the era of digital platforms and algorithmic management, data governance has to be trodden with transparency and due consultation to make industrial policy work for small entrepreneurs, workers and consumers as much as the big capital holders.

By Professor Francis Kuriakose 

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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