The Jobscape

Who Wants a Sarkari Naukri?

This is the fourth edition of The Jobscape, our weekly round-up of news and opinion on the state of employment and job creation in India. In this edition, we look at a range of jobs from tech and AI and how to eradicate manual scavenging.

Job Creation News

HCL Technologies plans to hire 25,000-30,000 people this year. As on September 30, the company had 127,875 employees, so this would amount to an increase of 20-23% in headcount. Overall IT hiring is set to pick up in 2019, reversing the loss of over fifty thousand jobs in the last year. Internet services are expected to create as many as 12 million jobs by 2022 as long as certain conditions, like better internet connectivity in Tier 2 and 3 cities are met.

Even the Chinese want to create jobs in India! Chinese telecom giant Huawei plans to invest $100 million in India and create thousands of jobs. Unfortunately, there’s bad news as well. India’s telecom sector may cut as many as 65,000 jobs by March 2019, mainly in customer support and financial functions.

Finally, while we don’t recommend this at all, it seems like even crime is advertising for job seekers.

 ‘Sarkari Naukri’

The government is going on a job hiring spree with 330,000 jobs on offer before the general election in 2019. Are these electoral sops? Or actual jobs that will continue long after the election?

Skill India’s Rozgar Mela in Lucknow, UP lead to 3,000 job offers for youth attending the job fair.

After the horrendous accident on the train tracks on Dussehra, family members of victims are not just looking for compensation, they also want government jobs, showing once again what’s uppermost on the Indian mind.

Despite this great hankering after government jobs in India, there are those who prefer to follow their passion. Kashmiri footballer Shahnawaz Bashir has a government job in Srinagar that he’s willing to give up for football. May his tribe increase!

AI, Technology, Telecom and Taxis

India, and especially Bengaluru, is the third largest tech start-up ecosystem in the world. 1,200 tech start-ups emerged in 2018, creating 40,000 direct jobs. Approximately three times that many indirect jobs were estimated to have been created.

To create and sustain job growth, India needs to take technology seriously, especially as approximately “90% of increases in per capita income come from technological innovation”.  This begs the question: with the changing nature of work, will tech open up the Indian job market?

AI is coming for jobs, but not necessarily workers. “52-69% of repetitive and predictive roles in sectors including IT, financial services, manufacturing, transportation, packaging and shipping to get exposed to the risk of automation in the next couple of years.” Workers will simply get other, newer jobs. “This is not the first time we are witnessing the impact of technology and automation. For example, ATMs were supposed to do away with cashiers (at banks) but both coexist today. In fact, ATMs created more jobs in the backend in the form of call centres,” But we can’t be complacent. We need to follow the example of China where there are plans to set up 50 AI colleges and research institutes by 2020.

In other news, India is struggling to fill 50,000 AI jobs. We have a lot of catching up to do.

We know that India is one of the biggest markets for mobile phones in the world. We have also grown to be the world’s second biggest mobile phone manufacturer with more than 120 units creating an excess of 450,000 jobs in the last four years.

The gig economy, especially cab aggregators may not be doing as well as thought. 100,000 Uber and Ola drivers in Mumbai went on strike seeking better driver income and more rides per day. 

Macroeconomic Issues

Mehta and Parida look at macroeconomic causes for the fall in jobs growth including the fall in investment-to-GDP rate; fall in industry capacity utilisation to 70%; fall in plant load factor in energy plants to 60%; and the fall in credit offtake.

Should the government calibrate the minimum wage to the right level to mitigate employment losses and ensure that major stakeholders including employers, benefit? Sounds like a tall order!

As a labour surplus economy, one of our exports are labourers themselves, especially to the middle east. In 2015 the government of India created the e-migrate website to help the process of emigration clearance for these labourers. Indian citizens who have not passed their 10thstandard exams need clearance from the government before they can travel to certain countries. The e-migrate website, has however increased paperwork for foreign employers and hurts workers seeking jobs. Maybe we need to scrap the government clearance requirement altogether?

Flexi-staffing is gaining popularity in India and we will add 2.9 million flexi staff in 2018. Unlike the informal and unorganized sector jobs, these flexi-jobs give workers all statutory social benefits, insurance and other benefits they are entitled to.

Increasing import duties takes a toll on jobs. After the government increased the import duty on cut and polished diamonds to 7.5% from 5%, business has been shifting to competitors in China and Thailand and India’s diamond processing industry may lose 1 lakh jobs accounting for 20% of the total jobs in the industry.  

Women and Employment

The #metoo movement has exposed unsafe working environments for women in India. The effects are not limited to women and they hinder India’s economic development.

Childcare issues often lead to women leaving jobs. A UP police officer is braving it out, taking care of her 6-month-old baby while on duty!

Politics

Rajasthan’s Suchna Evam Rozgar Abhiyan (SR Abhiyan) accuses the BJP government of making false promises of generating 15 lakh jobs.

Shashi Tharoor warns that India may be looking at a demographic disaster if we cannot educate and skill our youth to take full advantage of the job opportunities available. P Chidambaram, the former finance and external affairs minister, currently heads the Congress party’s manifesto committee. The committee received 67 suggestions during a two hour interaction. Lack of jobs, safety of women and price rise were the most important issues raised.

Jobs and Data

There’s a lot of churn in India’s payroll data gathered by the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO). Between September 2017 and August 2018, about 9.1 million people left formal jobs with only 1.85 million of these coming back to formal jobs. In the same period, EPFO added about 14.56 million subscribers. According to Prof. K.R. ShyamSundar of XLRI Jamshedpur, “The exit of 9.1 million from EPFO … suggests that there is a huge casualisation of workforce happening within the formal sector.”

Jumping into the EPFO – jobs data debate, Pravin Shrivastava, India’s Chief Statistician avers that “EPFO data should be seen as proxy for formalisation, not employment creation” and he’s also announces that the next labour force survey should be out by early or mid-December.

Manual Scavenging

There are some jobs that no human should ever have to do. Manual sewer cleaning or scavenging is one of them. Even though it has been banned in India since 1993, it still continues. And to our shame, the world is watching.  Reports like this from Thane, near Mumbai, where three sanitation workers died cleaning a manhole are common. At least 221 people have died since 2017 cleaning sewers. Often, no police report is filed, and no compensation granted to kin of those who died. The government, instead of tackling the problem, is instead undercounting the number of manual scavengers. And it’s not that these jobs must be done by humans – there are technological solutions for sewer cleaning – from robots to using high pressure water jets. It’s high time we use the tech and eradicate manual scavenging.

For more on India’s jobs crisis, follow the 20 Million Jobs project on Twitter at @20Mjobs.

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About the author

Yazad Jal

Yazad Jal is Fellow, Economic Policy at the Takshashila Institution.
Previously he worked for McKinsey and IBM in the United States and
before that in the non-profit sector in India, last serving as CEO of
Praja Foundation in Mumbai. Yazad has an MBA from Yale University and
a BA (Econ) from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai University.