Will jobs return to what they were when Indian businesses recover from the Covid-19 pandemic?
Concerns about jobs consuming technology through automation were discussed. Yet, as noted, technology is also creating new jobs. One area is the growing number of livelihood opportunities in the ‘platform’ or online world. It’s part of the “gig” economy and ranges from fancy work (often for overseas clients) in software development, web design, translation and editing, to food delivery.
Estimates indicate that the number of food delivery agents in a single company (Zomato) in India is over 230,000, and the number of drivers in a taxi-app (Ola) service was estimated at 2.5 million in 2018. China’s more developed market has at least 5.7 million delivery people in its two main players (Meituan Dianping, backed by Tencent Holdings, and Ele.me, part of the Alibaba group).
In India, these construction workers do not have a social safety net.
In Brazil, however (where more than 600,000 drivers work for Uber alone), then-president Dilma Rousseff forced employers to sign a contract with a domestic helper, guaranteeing a fixed salary, vacations and more. benefits. India needs to think about how to deal with the problem as the number of on-demand workers grows. The new labor code includes a certain degree of social security for these workers.
Amid all the tech churn, the global pandemic caused by the Covid-19 virus has drastically changed a lot. Some aspects, such as the global economic downturn (which many expect to be among the worst ever), may be a short-term phenomenon, which will have a severe impact on current jobs and a dampening effect on job creation. brand new job. However, this will also have lasting consequences.
One will be the result of working from home (WFH): a necessity during lockdown, its possibilities and benefits have now been savored. Some people and many businesses will see this as an ideal way to work. Individuals may appreciate the flexibility it offers and the possibility of becoming on-demand workers, independent “entrepreneurs” who work (from their own premises) part-time and / or for multiple clients.
People who are at home, especially the large number of educated women, would see the WFH as a way to get a part-time job, to do it from home at a time that is convenient for them, to stay busy even if they earn an income.
Businesses will see WFH as a way to reduce pressure on their space requirements, save money on real estate and overhead costs like electricity, air conditioning, etc. that go hand in hand with “regular” employment (eg medical and pension costs) and the flexibility to increase or decrease human resources, as needed.
Already, a very large Indian service company has announced an ambitious 25×25 model: by 2025, only 25% of its employees will have to work from their desks, and they too will only work there 25% of the time. Undoubtedly, many others are planning similar changes as well. Even today, some companies do not have offices dedicated to all their staff. Whenever someone needs to be physically present at the office, they “reserve” a place.
Physical distance is one of the most effective ways to stay safe from the COVID virus. Ensuring this in the working environment – in the office, in the store or in the factory – won’t be easy. It will certainly require thinning, a reduction in density. Thus, the savings that could have been realized by the WFH (less people in offices, less real estate needed) can be offset by the requirement for a lower density of people.
In addition, there will be costs associated with testing and protecting those who have to come to work. This proximity penalty is a factor that, aided by technology, will push for decentralization and could disperse many jobs in small towns and rural areas.
Another, quite different outcome, resulting from concerns about the pandemic (and human carriers), is that organizations may find automation an attractive alternative. After all, robots are unaffected by the pandemic and don’t have to be quarantined, or worry about being away or wearing masks! Changing costs – rising for humans and falling for machines – tip the scales even further.
An example is taken from a recent report on the history of a gas and oil company (Cairn Oil). Its Barmer factory (in Rajasthan) was managed by more than 7,500 people on site in the months leading up to the Covid pandemic. After the lockdown was announced, that number rose to just over 1,500.
Despite this, the company recovered 1.6 barrels of lakh of oil per day, compared to 1.8 barrels of lakh previously. This marginal decrease was also due to lower demand. Its production has only been sustained thanks to its investment in automation and digitization over the past two years. With this experience, one can be almost certain that the company – and others like it – will further increase investment in automation and seek ways to reduce human power.
Extracted with permission from Decisive decade – India 2030: Gazelle or hippopotamus, Kiran Karnik, Rupa Publications.