As of right now, there’s a robotic invasion of India. At least that's what many factory workers at the Royal Enfield motorcycle factory in Southern India would like us to believe. At the beginning of August 2015, Royal Enfield began to bring in machines to replace their assembly line staff, specifically the painters. Some say machines are destroying lives while others say there's a lot more going on than there appears to be.
Unfortunately, the machines brought into Royal Enfield were reported to move twice the speed of a human without making a mistake. The machine’s effectiveness meant massive layoffs for the low level workers, leading to unemployment levels skyrocketing. Yet, there’s somehow a silver lining to all this.
Natalie Obiko Pearson, a Bloomberg News South Asia Government reporter, has come forward explaining that “robots create jobs.” She further explains that by forming an educated work force to make up for the jobs being lost, we create a balance between those who can repair, program and create more assembly line machines.
The Uneducated Population
The reality, however, is that India has a large education gap. This means that the jobs being created only go to educated individuals while the larger work force of uneducated people continue to live in poverty without employment. This is truly a troubling issue, but is it capable of happening in North America?
Despite what most of us believe, many adults in first world nations have low levels of proficiency in academic skills. The Canadian Literacy Learning Network has found that “42% of Canadian adults between the ages of 16 and 65 have low literacy skills.” A Stats Canada adult literacy and life skills survey conducted in 2008 shows that low literacy skills can be brought on by “the differences in the level and distribution of literacy, numeracy and problem solving skills [which] are associated with large differences in economic and social outcomes.” This means that machines are not the main problem that people make out to be for unemployment since there are many issues at play.
Drew Miller can attest to this. “High school was rough for me,” says Miller, causing him to drop out of high school at a young age. He explains that he attracted a lot of unwanted attention and bullying due to his appearance that led him to not want to attend school. He also points out that “the school system did almost nothing about my truancy and it all kind of spiraled out of control.”
Now Miller is 23 years old with no high school diploma, going from job to job and, in a strange twist, can relate to those in India who are going through similar struggles. Miller says that “not having anything on paper is pretty much a death sentence while handing out resumes.”
He goes on to talk about the vicious cycle he lives in: no job means no education and no education means no job. He says that “I pretty much have to put on I have my High School and pray that employers aren't going to look into it.” Miller also brings up the fact that he hasn't seen full time employment in years except for telemarketing.
Oddly enough, Miller blames society instead of machines. “I haven’t lost any of my crappy jobs to machines,” says Miller. He wants to express that he and others in his position, from India or North America, shouldn't rally against the businesses that bring in machines, but the government and society that let people go on without a proper education.
He does say there’s plenty of blame on himself and that he does have it much easier than the people in India right now, but that “there are a lot of underlining factors behind it. No one wants to be broke and feel useless, but that's kind of how it is at times.”
Machines may cost jobs or create jobs, but the real issue seems to be in what nations are doing for the people who are most vulnerable to the ever-changing economic world we live in. If we don't act now, there may be more people in Millers shoes then we realize.