The ‘Future of Work’ as a policy concept has received much attention in the last few years. Rapid developments in emergent technologies like artificial intelligence, internet of things, automation, and robotics, have fuelled debate and action from policymakers, educators, and businesses to fully leverage the opportunities these new technologies present. The equal amounts of anxiety and excitement that this debate has presented uptill now, needs urgent revisiting in the context of the ongoing pandemic induced economic changes.
This is because with Covid-19 becoming the definitive backdrop of these changes, it is becoming increasingly clear that the future of work is here and needs our urgent attention now more than ever.
Acknowledging the urgency that this context presents, Quest Alliance in partnership with Tandem Research, with support from Cisco India, recently launched its white paper on Skilling for the Future of Work: An Outlook for Youth in the Platform Economy. This white paper presents the sector with insights and projections highlighting how rapid expansion of the platform economy has remained consistent throughout the pandemic and is likely to pick up pace in the coming times. The paper then goes on to underscore the skills that will be critical for India’s youth to navigate the current economic challenges to build meaningful careers on platforms.
The platform economy is made up of digital infrastructure that enables interaction between two or more parties. Platforms serve as intermediaries through which buyers and sellers hire or provide goods and services. Some major examples of sectors in which these platforms operate in India include e-commerce (for e.g. Amazon, FlipKart), hyperlocal delivery, especially for food and household products (for e.g. Grofers, Zomato, Swiggy), ride-hailing (For e.g. Ola, Uber) and domestic services (for e.g Urban Company).
The white paper, launched through a multi-stakeholder webinar on 22nd July 2020, brought together perspectives from the Ministry of Skills Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), leadership from Cisco India, Tandem Research and UrbanCompany, a services based platform in India. With the white paper at its centre, the group highlighted the impact of the pandemic on platforms with a specific focus on how, as sector stakeholders they need to come together to help India’s youth access platform-based work.
Comparing trends from early 2020 to more recent changes, the white paper research predicts a likely platformization of more sectors and services. For instance, it cites experts estimating the E-commerce sector to be creating 1 million jobs by 2023 and (dominated by platforms) the Indian foodtech industry to be reaching $15 billion by the same year. This is being exemplified already by India’s online grocery delivery segment which saw a major expansion during the Covid-19 induced lockdown. The workforce of the entire segment continues to be categorised as ‘essential’ as these lockdowns and stay-at-home orders continue across the country and the world.