Automation is increasingly seen as a big threat to jobs and a driver of inequality in the West, but its impact in India is less understood.

An Azim Premji University working paper sheds new light on the impact of automation and other changes on working conditions in the Gurgaon-Neemrana industrial belt, an important node of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). The study argues that rising automation has made workers dispensable, and eroded their bargaining power at a time when jobs are scarce, and the overall policy environment is not quite labour-friendly.

The study is co-authored by Nayanjyoti, a research scholar at Delhi University, and Amit, an independent researcher and trade union activist.

Based on a survey of trade union activists and leaders, the research conducted was conducted over a span of six months from September 2017 to March 2018. The study is therefore written from the perspective of workers rather than from the perspective of the management of the firms located in that belt.

Taking the example of two automobile plants in that belt, the authors point out how the easy movement of funds, setting up multiple units of the same company, and the shifting of production from older to newer units with more automation and flexible labour laws have reduced workers’ control over production.

Such moves have reduced the effectiveness of strikes, and brought down the bargaining capacity of unions in the older units, the authors argue.

The researchers argue that new technologies and the informalisation of work contracts have made workers more dispensable, while giving the management more control over production.

The findings of the study suggest that rising automation and changes in institutional norms could be driving shop-floor inequality in India.

Also Read: Changes in production and labour regimes and challenges before collective bargaining: a study focusing on the Gurgaon-Neemrana industrial belt in the DMIC