1.Fighting the bots for jobs (Live Mint)

2.Why MMR and NMR high despite improvement in childbirth practices (Down to Earth)

1.Fighting the bots for jobs (Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light as the human race needs to take the fight to the bots by aggressively targeting job opportunities and defining what we can do better than, and differently from, the bots. (GS paper III)


  • A start-up based in the US that demonstrated an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based platform which automated expense processing for a financial services company. The platform not only increased accuracy but also reduced the employed team of several hundreds by 85% New jobs added to support the new process were a small fraction of the jobs lost.
  • Watching the platform at work, it was clear that millions of performing rules-based processes were vulnerable to being automated away, especially in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry in India.

Reducing jobs

  • Several other AI-based companies dramatically automating other business processes in insurance, healthcare, financial services, transportation and retail industries. While the pace of adoption is hard to predict, there is little doubt that the impact of such automation will be deep and wide.
  • This trend does not stop at rules-based business processes. AI is maturing fast to interpret medical reports, legal documents, news clips, seismic information, genomics insights, financial models, etc.
  • As a result, several service industry jobs, especially those performed on a computing device, will be automated in the same way manufacturing jobs have been hit by robotics since the 1980s. Armed with AI-based hardware and software robots (henceforth referred to as bots), businesses will make a concerted effort to reduce labour, cut costs and enhance shareholder value.

Fears of automation

  • There are optimists among entrepreneurs and academicians who have rightly pointed out that every technology-driven “revolution” also has generated new jobs. But there is very little articulation about the kinds of jobs that will be created this time or how this creation can be accelerated. It is time to change the narrative to focusing on new job creation and taking the fight back to the bots.
  • Like everyone else, I do not have all the answers but will attempt some and hopefully catalyse more thinking on new opportunities in industries that will continue to be people-intensive.
  • The new areas for significant job creation potentially will have at least one of two attributes: bot-unsuitability for the work content and a big macro trend creating demand for certain categories of work where humans can beat the bots.

Bot unsuitability for work: 

  • Bots are typically programmed to understand repeatable logic and a specific stream of knowledge. They will undoubtedly also get to the variability and mixing knowledge streams but for the foreseeable future, work that involves free-flowing creativity, human emotions and touch, complex physical work with multiple touch-points and values-based interpretations that combine knowledge flows, is out of bounds or difficult.
  • Some examples would be art, music and storytelling (creative), nursing, childcare and mental health (human emotions and touch), urban last-mile logistics (complex physical work) and product ratings (values-based interpretations).
  • Bots will hit such areas too as I have seen them create news videos, make coffee, compose music, etc. But in many such areas, human creativity can compete and win, at least for a while.

Areas where still human labour will be relevant

1) Care for the rapidly ageing global population,

2) content integrity with the proliferation of fake, inappropriate and manipulative information on social media,

3) cybersecurity unfortunately tech alone can’t handle this as the sources and variability of threats will continue to expand,

4) last-mile logistics e-commerce growth and my inability to see drones running around the streets of Mumbai or any other city suggest that humans are winning this one,

5) disaster prevention and relief: if climate change is for real, then I see big employment opportunities for both public and private disaster stoppers and relief workers, and

6) data workers: not necessarily data scientists, for traditional statistically driven data science work will face AI-driven automation, but data designers and interpreters who link data to new technologies and business context.

Way ahead

  • Ideal job creation opportunities will take advantage of both these attributes. The opportunities mentioned above by no means provide a comprehensive list and the appropriate list may vary by country or region based on their specific needs as well. For example, construction and infrastructure building will still be attractive employment generators in developing nations.
  • Like any other competitive battle, the human race needs to take the fight to the bots by aggressively targeting such opportunities and defining what we can do better than, and differently from, the bots.
  • Regulation may be necessary if job losses are sudden and massive, but a better idea would be backing entrepreneurs who are unleashing their energy and creativity on building people-intensive industries of the future which will also create shareholder value.

Question What type of interventions are needed at the part of government to fight the fear of job losses induced by bots?

2.Why MMR and NMR high despite improvement in childbirth practices (Down to Earth)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the interventions needed to fight MMR and NMR in India. (GS paper II)


  • A study conducted in public health centres in Uttar Pradesh shows complying to essential childbirth practices did not significantly alter maternal and perinatal mortality & maternal morbidity.
  • Despite improvements in the quality of care during labour and delivery, checklists and coaching interventions failed to reduce maternal and neonatal deaths during childbirth.

The study

  • The study was conducted in 2017 across 24 districts in 60 pairs of public health facilities in Uttar Pradesh. The effects of the BetterBirthprogramme, an eight month coaching-based implementation of the WHO Safe Childbirth Checklist, was studied on outcomes, such as perinatal death, maternal death, or maternal severe complications within seven days after delivery.
  • The study found that birth attendants’ adherence to essential birth practices was higher in facilities that used the coaching-based WHO Safe Childbirth Checklist programme than in those which did not.
  • However, maternal and perinatal mortality and maternal morbidity did not differ significantly between the two groups.
  • These results are important because they show that major improvements in the quality of childbirth are possible.
  • Statisticsfrom the World Health Organization (WHO) statistics found that in 2017, approximately 830 women died every single day due to complications during pregnancy or childbirth and only 78 per cent of births were in the presence of a skilled birth attendant.
  • India contributesto 15 per cent of the global maternal death toll. About 44, 000 Indian women die each year due to complications arising during childbirth. About 70 per cent of these can be prevented. Over 80 per cent of maternal deaths in India, as elsewhere in the world, are due to six medical causes, including haemorrhage, eclampsia, obstructed labour, sepsis, unsafe abortion and pre-existing conditions, such as anemia and malaria.
  • Almost two-thirdsof maternal deaths in India reportedly occur in just nine states – Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.

What are the causes?

  • Early marriage has serious repercussions as girls are more likely to become pregnant at a younger and riskier age.
  • The National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4) corroboratedthat more than one quarter (27 percent) of women were married before 18 years. The corresponding figure was higher in rural (32 per cent) than urban areas (17.5 per cent). Young mothers in India contribute 45 per cent of the maternal mortality (15-25 years).
  • There are other contributing factors, such as poor health and nutrition, lack of physical access to healthcare (including transportation and finance), medical causes and socio-cultural factors that obstruct and underplay the importance of healthcare for women.

What is the government response?

  • The government, under the National Health Mission (NHM), has taken a number of steps to prevent maternal mortality. A cadre of female health activists called ASHA has been placed in each village to increase access to maternal care. Under the Janani Suraksha Yojana, institutional delivery is promoted by integrating cash assistance with delivery and post-delivery care.
  • The Janani–Shishu Suraksha Karyakram (JSSK) provides free services to pregnant women, including normal and caesarean deliveries and for sick new born.
  • The Union Health Ministry has identified184 high priority districts (HPD) where it will pump more funds and resources to improve health care facilities. The high priority districts (HPDs) were decided based on their poor indicators. The government started ambulance services such as the Janani Express and 109/8 services to address the challenges of transportation and reaching health facilities on time.
  • Despite all these measures, the Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) remains high. To bring down maternal deaths, what is needed is more accountability around implementation of policies, ensuring that good quality health services is made universally available, that steps are taken to address anaemia, and at the same time address social evils like child marriage.
  • Recently, the Union health minister and MoS (Finance) launched LaQshya– a Labour Room Quality Improvement Initiative and an application for health workers working in the peripheral areas. The ministry also released Operational Guidelines for Obstetric High Dependency Units and Intensive Care Units.

What can be done to prevent these deaths?

  • It is particularly important that all births are attended by skilled health professionals, as timely management and treatment can make the difference between life and death. Women and their families mentioned that in the public facilities they often are faced with non-availability and negligence of staff.
  • the need to strengthen the healthcare system access to the full range of health interventions across the complete continuum of care from pre-pregnancy to early childhood and beyond. Non-functional medical equipment and inadequate supply of medicines are some of the other major lacunas.

Question: Why complying to essential childbirth practices did not significantly alter maternal and perinatal mortality & maternal morbidity?