To read this content please select one of the options below:

Automation, AI and the Future of Work in India

Anita Hammer (Essex Business School, University of Essex, Colchester, UK)
Suparna Karmakar (Indian Chamber of Commerce, Kolkata, India)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 29 April 2021

Issue publication date: 1 October 2021




This research contributes to current debates on automation and the future of work, a much-hyped but under researched area, in emerging economies through a particular focus on India. It assesses the national strategy on artificial intelligence and explores the impact of automation on the Indian labour market, work and employment to inform policy.


The article critically assesses the National Strategy on AI, promulgated by NITI Aayog (a national policy think tank), supported by the government of India and top industry associations, through a sectoral analysis. The key dimensions of the national strategy are examined against scholarship on the political economy of work in India to better understand the possible impact of automation on work.


The study shows that technology is not free from the wider dynamics that surround the world of work. The adoption of new technologies is likely to occur in niches in the manufacturing and services sectors, while its impact on employment and the labour market more broadly, and in addressing societal inequalities will be limited. The national strategy, however, does not take into account the nature of capital accumulation and structural inequalities that stem from a large informal economy and surplus labour context with limited upskilling opportunities. This raises doubts about the effectiveness of the current policy.

Research limitations/implications

The critical assessment of new technologies and work has two implications: first, it underscores the need for situated analyses of social and material relations of work in formulating and assessing strategies and policies; second, it highlights the necessity of qualitative workplace studies that examine the relationship between technology and the future of work.

Practical implications

The article assesses an influential state policy in a key aspect of future of work–automation.

Social implications

The policy assessed in this study would have significant social and economic outcomes for labour, work and employment in India. The study highlights the limitations of the state policy in addressing key labour market dimensions and work and employment relations in its formulation and implementation.


This study is the first to examine the impact of automation on work and employment in India. It provides a critical intervention in current debates on future of work from the point of view of an important emerging economy defined by labour surplus and a large informal economy.



The authors would like to thank Prof Dennis Nickson and the two peer reviewers for their supportive and constructive suggestions.


Hammer, A. and Karmakar, S. (2021), "Automation, AI and the Future of Work in India", Employee Relations, Vol. 43 No. 6, pp. 1327-1341.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles