–Kakali Das |
Around 27 million Indians in the age group of 20-30 years have lost their jobs in the month of April. India had 268 million people below the poverty line in the year 2012. The government hadn’t yet revealed what had happened to the poverty-stricken scenario since then in terms of any data. In between 2012 and 2018, youth (15-29 year olds) unemployment rates had tripled from 6% to 18%, and it has jumped since then. According to the data revealed by CMI, 122 million people had fallen out over since then.
India contains 24% of the workforce which stands almost below the poverty line and the rest of the population for the half majority sustains by doing informal work. The situation in India is dire and unprecedented not only in our history but in global history as well. We could, apparently, reach famine “of biblical proportions” this time, because of the coronavirus pandemic very shortly.
There are both organised and unorganised employment to be discussed when the topic on increasing rate of unemployment in the country comes up. The migrant labour essentially falls on the ‘unorganised labour’. It would be a mammoth task to get the migrant labourers who have returned to their families in their villages, back to their works in the cities, since they have lost their confidence and faith in the system. They would apparently think twice before rebooting their works in the urban areas. On the other hand, in terms of ‘organised labour’ it would all depend upon the industries they work in, especially in the service sectors such as, the aviation industry, the hotels, tourism, entertainment, retail sectors – employees have mostly lost their jobs. It might depend upon when the recovery would take place and above that the abolition of the labour laws by some states would certainly make things go haywire in the days to come.
Corporate India, or the organised employment, to some extent, have put in their down payments of two months, wages towards unemployment insurance without zero revenues. By and large, corporate India have state compliant and are state committed but to expect them in continuing these measures in the future is a bit too much to ask for.
The CMI data shows that for the first time in 15 years, the number of workers in agriculture rose within a month by over 5 million. From independence until 2005, the number of workers in agriculture was rising because of the space of structural transformation in our economy and workers moving out of agriculture was so slow that the absolute number of population increase was still rising until that very year. But post 2005, because non-agricultural jobs began to grow exponentially at a rate of 7.5 million new jobs per annum between 2005 and 2012, workers, for the first time, started leaving agriculture. We began to witness the real hastening of the space of structural transformation and the share of workers in agriculture falling sharply. Post the year 2012, manufacturing jobs gradually started declining – construction job growth fell and the economy slowed down compared to the dream run period. Now, after a 15 years’ period, in a matter of a month, 5 million people have been added to the agricultural labour force. The real wages which were already stagnating or falling in rural areas are going to fall even further. The implication of the state is that the state has to respond. What happened in the month of April, 2020 was that MNREGA works actually fell to rock bottom. The importance of MNREGA as a wage generator is about to increase significantly for few months to a year with the Finance Minister of India talking about reviving the MNREGA works in the days to come.
The banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) sector, the pharmaceutical sector, the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector have been performing in a very normal way, operations have been normal in most of the segments. Therefore, the students looking for a placement in the BFSI sector should probably wait as to when the companies start getting on their feet and the shutdown comes to a halt. Whereas, the sectors particularly suffering under the frivolous rage of lockdown are tourism and hospitality and the placements for hotel management students. These are the sectors which would take the long risks to recoup the losses and get back to the state of normalcy. The practical reality is that for the next 6 months these sectors would remain in the red zone; one would have to look into the alternatives if they are lacking in patience. Considering the current scenario, optimism amongst the applicants, employees, is utmost important. Given that the corporate companies or industries are struggling to manage their existing work-force, to believe that there would be a few organisations who would go ahead and accommodate new hires or campus offers is almost futile – in all probabilities there will be a deferment of all such hires. But yes, since it’s a deferment, people shouldn’t lose hope on as there will be certain sectors in the digital world, the services in the essential sectors which will, indeed, start hiring in the next couple of months. As I mentioned above, there’s a hope or a silver lining even amidst the darkness. In the immediate run in the health care segments, needless to say, the doctors, nurses, para-medics and any other health care professionals – we have witnessed a spike in their operations; we see production, distribution, logistics or the supply chain in FMSG, particularly, for staples, processed foods making headway amidst the current lockdown. Of course, in the e-grossers there is a need for delivery agents, warehouse executives and logistics and it would be difficult to run efficiently amidst this situation. Most importantly, I believe that the digital sector, in the long run, will be the biggest beneficiaries emerging out of this pandemic – facility management, fintech companies, cyber security professionals, the entire works in online education and digital workforce solutions will be a big hit in the days to come. Online education has preponed from the year 2030 to 2020 suddenly; what we thought to expect in 2030 is happening all around us now. People who never touched a mobile phone, an iPad or a laptop to opt for online educations are forced to do that. This is, indeed, going to be the new order for some time in the future.
In the advertising sector, generally, companies tend to cut down an advertising cost when times are hot and today, it’s a situation where there have been no productions for almost 2 months now; everyone is up in cutting costs. The media, as heard from the sources, has gone in for salary cuts already; it isn’t really feasible today as they primarily run on advertisements. This too will be a painful process as we go along.
The only way out for all of us to have patience, resilience, and to just hang in where we are until the pandemic is off .