Adjunct Professor Yan Islam
Can India continue to grow at rapid rates in the 21st century? What is the likely impact on the Indian labour market of the adoption and diffusion of new technology? The answers to these forward-looking and salient questions are enmeshed in contested perspectives. On the one hand, there is robust optimism that India will indeed be able to maintain its newly acquired mantle of fastest growing economy in the world. On the other hand, there are those who argue that India is unlikely to defy the statistical odds of "regression to the mean' with growth typically slowing down to the 2 to 4 per cent range.
As far as the impact of new technology is concerned, one could succumb to the apocalyptic vision of large-scale technological unemployment or, alternatively, one could be swayed by the romantic notion that digital technology will enable millions of "micro-entrepreneurs' to emerge that will usher a new period of equitable growth. The paper maintains that, rather than falling prey to extreme views, one should take account of the realistic scenario that India's future will be determined by the perennial struggle between the structural realities of today's poverty and tomorrow's aspirations to become a society characterised by shared prosperity. This means guarding against growth fetishism and finding pragmatic ways to improve the wages and working conditions of those engaged in the vast informal economy.
Yan Islam, PhD (Cambridge), is currently Adjunct Professor, Griffith Asia Institute. He was previously Professor of International Business, School of International Business and Asian Studies, Griffith University. He also held a Director-level appointment with the Geneva-based International Labour Organization (ILO) until his retirement at the end of 2015. He has more than 100 publications and is one of the founding editors of the Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy (Routledge, London and New York).
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