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AI Advances Threaten Blue-Collar Jobs in Emerging Markets: What Can Be Done?

Technological advancements have the potential to revolutionize industries, but they also threaten employment opportunities. The blue-collar workforce that is responsible for manual labor and physically-demanding tasks is especially susceptible to this threat. The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2025, 85 million jobs will be lost to automation, particularly in manufacturing, construction, and transportation industries. This disruption will have a significant effect on the workforce, as blue-collar jobs are frequently a path to social mobility and financial stability; the loss of these positions could cause economic instability and social unrest. However, there is also the possibility for new jobs to be created in industries associated with technology and innovation.


Job losses and displacement have occurred due to the significant reduction in the need for manual labor in manufacturing, construction, and other industries as more automation, AI and machine learning have been more adopted. These technologies have allowed for tasks that were previously only possible through human intervention to be performed. One example is the use of autonomous drones in agriculture, which can monitor crop health and growth patterns more efficiently and accurately. This not only reduces the need for human intervention but also leads to more effective use of resources such as water and fertilizer. The impact of these technological disruptions is more pronounced in emerging markets where workers are more vulnerable to job losses due to the lack of skills and resources, making it difficult for workers to adapt to the changing landscape of the workforce. Robots are increasingly being utilized to fill labor gaps in emerging markets like China and India.


To address the impact of technology on the blue-collar workforce, it is crucial for policymakers and businesses to invest in education and training programs that upskill workers. This will equip workers with the necessary skills to operate and maintain emerging technologies, and enable them to take advantage of new job opportunities. In addition, policymakers should also create incentives for companies to invest in these programs. For instance, a government could provide tax breaks to companies that invest in employee training or subsidies for the development of new technologies that require workers with specific skill sets. Furthermore, developing new job roles that complement the work done by automation and technology is crucial. For example, while autonomous drones can be used to monitor crop health, they still require human intervention for maintenance and repair. By developing roles that focus on the maintenance and repair of these machines, workers can complement the work done by automation, rather than being replaced by it


The transition to a technology-driven economy requires careful consideration and planning to ensure a just and equitable outcome for all members of society. While this presents significant opportunities for increased productivity and efficiency, it also requires a thoughtful approach to upskilling and reskilling to ensure that workers are not left behind. It is imperative for governments, businesses, and civil society to collaborate and plan for the future of work in emerging markets.

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