India joined the Industrial Revolution at the right time couple of decades back and started well in the initial years. However, over a period of time, it slowed down and sometimes almost it went into a stand still. We are trying to revive it again, with ‘Make in India’ campaign by our Prime Minister which could play the second innings and do the catch up that we lost over the period.
One of the key components of the industrial growth during the period is our enormous availability of talent, taking advantage of our population in the country. It is customary that every industry have nurtured a contingent or contractual work force that could help in jobs that exist temporary in nature and which is not core to the manufacturing process in industries.
It was an excellent medium of providing unskilled or sometimes skilled jobs in and around the community who could co-exist with the industry and for the industries to also develop the community around their work location. It is a win-win situation. The cost, easy availability, sustainability, support from the community and various other advantages became the outcome of this arrangement.
As it evolved over a period of time, the intent and mode of engagement started taking different turns which sometimes bordered around exploitation and misuse of contingent workforce engagements. The government established statutory obligations and regulations to ensure that they are not victimized or ill treated. While companies followed the norms since they are mandatory to run the business, the intent to create a sense of humanity and respect for individual in regards to safety, security and development was not taken into account.
The conditions of work for a workman in contingent work engagement are very tough. There was no job security, training, development, medical facilities and social benefits were still not enough. Their employers continued to exploit their status and their inability to command good treatment or secure a good long term employment had become absolutely impossible. But their contribution to the productivity continues to be critical and played an important role in the progress of an industry and economic development in the country.
Almost 20 to 30% of the total head count used in an industry is contingent in nature. In fact in some industries where the manufacturing process is continuous and conventional it goes up to 40 to 50%. Hence it is imaginable to recognize how important this portion of the work force in an industry is.
So where are we now?
More and more industries are becoming mechanized and the need for contract labor is getting smaller and smaller. The generations are evolving and more skilled and educated talent become available and rarely are they interested in doing contingent work. They look for full time and work of permanent nature.
With globalization and multinationals coming into India, and practices of ethics, compliance, respect for individuals and equality etc, have created the need to look at contingent workforce differently. Companies have started providing the same type of benefits like common canteen facilities, wearing safety equipments and PPE’s as any employee would, participation in employee surveys, give the right to complain on discrimination, ethics or compliance, and make them feel that they are part of the industry or company.
The contingent workforce used to be prevalent practice in the manufacturing industry. But in the last few years it has moved to services companies like, banks, information technology, FMCG, BPO etc. The growing need for talent and the exponential growth in these sectors have pushed the employers to co opt their talent strategy. While the profile of the contingent workforce in these industries is different, the spirit has remained the same.
The contingent workforce is more literate, tech savvy, informed, not much keen on collective bargaining and very mobile in nature. Off late, the contingent workforce is brought into one state from other states. It was not the case in the past. It used to be from within the community around the industry.
With the industry moving into another phase of growth we will see a very different situation and treatment of the contingent workforce. It will also be interesting to note that this industry expansion will be more from the global companies as part of the 'Make in India' moves and initiatives. Obviously the global companies will implement their culture of how they manage the contingent workforce and it will lead to a complete change of this space in the years to come.
It is a welcome change. It would indirectly help bring equality in the society. Make us a better nation. Help teach us how to respect and treat people with dignity irrespective of the job they do. It will bring safety orientation into work and care for each individual’s health at work. Ethics will automatically be a norm and part of the culture. It is good for the system internally and externally for a company.
The buying power to improve in the country is very much a possibility and it will just make the country and the quality of life of every individual look good. It is evident from the explosion of IT and BPO which have put India in the world map and brought in a globalized culture. It is time that we think about improving the work conditions of contingent workforce, make them inclusive and part of our core existence. It will contribute in a way to the ‘Make in India’ a reality and benefit the industry and community as a whole.