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India’s IT lobby lashes forecast of automation-induced jobs bloodbath

NASSCOM says industry has already weathered the worst automation has to offer, but may use different definitions of where jobs are at risk

India’s National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) has strongly criticised a Bank of America prediction that automation would cause three million job losses in its industry.

NASSCOM late last week published [PDF] a document diplomatically says the Bank of America (BoA) report “has some great insights on the Future of Work and other emerging trends.”

But the rebuttal document quickly adopts a sharper tone, accusing BoA of basic errors such as overcounting the number of people who work in business process management in India: the shortened public version of the report said India stands to lose 30 per cent of jobs in “back-office IT work”. NASSCOM’s rebuttal says the business process management (BPM) sector employs 1.4 million people while the “IT-BPM sector” employs 4.5 million.

NASSCOM adds that around a third of jobs in the BOM sector are related to customer interaction services. “Most of the customer work from India is now being done in an omni-channel model and involves higher-end expertise with technology and automation already built into the processes,” the Association wrote, suggesting that automation has already had its way with the industry.

The Association also points out that delivering automation projects for customers is a massive opportunity for India’s services companies, and that those companies are collectively hiring at a rate of over 100,000 people a year in India alone.

It is unclear if NASSCOM is referring to the redacted version of the document that BoA published, or has been able to access the complete version. The redacted version of the BoA report does not mention business process automation or customer service work. It does, however, cite research that automatic teller machines initially led to job cuts in retail banking, but then spurred jobs growth by reducing the costs of running a bank branch and making it possible for banks to open more retail locations.

“Although today we are seeing another round of disruption on retail bank branches via mobile payments,” the BoA report states, “the growing role of fintech could spur job creation to help offset job losses for the bank tellers of today.” ®

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