Industrial Revolution 4.0 is under way. It is a time of great strides in technological development, and, predictably, of great upheaval for labour. There is no reason why the information technology sector should stay insulated. With large-scale automation and the industry shifting away from traditional software engineering—towards digital and cloud computing—IT businesses worldwide are finding that a large chunk of their workforce doesn’t have the skills that the new work demands. That has led them to trim the workforce. In India, even IT bellwethers, Infosys and TCS, reduced headcount last year. IT workers, with high education and wage levels, can hardly be considered shop-floor workers; but many responded by forming unions, and were promptly supported by political leadership in the states.
A decidedly better reaction would have been to up-skill. But that, clearly, wasn’t a priority for them. IT businesses worldwide, on the other hand, have shown better sense. Business Standard reports that TCS and Infosys have joined an initiative by global IT giants, including Accenture, SAP and Cisco, that targets to provide 1 million workers with resources and training opportunities in the industry by 2021. For perspective, IT companies trimmed 56,000 jobs in India, which has one of the largest IT workforce in the world, last year. It isn’t immediately clear that whether this platform will be available only to in-house talent at the founding companies or will be open to all. But, as per a World Economic Forum report on workforce reskilling, 25% of workers report a mismatch between the skills they have and those required for their current job. Therefore, if the companies were to concentrate on the upskilling of their own, it would mean that both companies and their workers avoid future pain. The training platform will be piloted in the US, before it moves into other geographies—this could be as soon as early next year. So, IT workers in India would perhaps do well to junk the idea of unionising and instead get enthused about upgrading their skills.