Blue-collar shortage could go from bad to worse

An acute shortage of blue-collar workers facing several Indian industries after the Covid outbreak could intensify in the coming months, if the Omicron variant of the coronavirus takes a serious turn and leads to further restrictions from the government, have said leading economists and business. frames.

Several sectors, including manufacturing, e-commerce, logistics, construction and real estate, are facing a labor shortage of around 20-25%, according to data from the recruitment firm and Teamlease Services human resources solutions, shared with ET.

The gap between supply and demand stems from the fact that a significant part of the migrant population is still reluctant to return due to fears of a possible third wave of the pandemic. The emergence of Omicron could further deter working in cities, industry experts said.

Many have taken local jobs, and large-scale government rural employment programs such as MGNREGA and Pradhan Mantri Rozgar Yojana have also helped people earn a living closer to home.

“Even if Omicron turns out to be a milder variant than Delta, the threat itself may keep people from returning from rural areas,” said Madan Sabnavis, chief economist, Care Ratings. “That aside, seasonal migration due to the ongoing rabi planting season is expected to worsen the gap between demand and supply,” he added.

There is a huge shortage of supply in profiles such as supply managers, drivers, cleaners, sewing machine operators, welders, storekeepers, electricians and crane operators, according to the Teamlease data.

“While many experts err on the side of comments about caution and the need for restrictions, the restrictions and ensuing panic have the potential to have a disastrous impact on the recovering economy, on jobs, which is improving, on workforce mobility, which is progressing,” said Rituparna Chakraborty, executive vice president of TeamLease Services.

The lack of qualified resources to meet labor demands further adds to the shortage.

Seshagiri Rao, deputy general manager of JSW Steel, said attrition levels are still high, which is aggravating the labor crisis. “There is a huge shortage of skilled labor, including blue-collar skills,” Rao said.

Economists have issued a warning for 2022 regarding employment in contact-intensive services and informal jobs.

“We are still weeks or months away from knowing if Omicron is another Delta. And even though it is a milder variant, we cannot say that other mutants will not come,” said Sachchidanand Shukla, chief economist of Mahindra Group. “Unless we can get this virus and its mutants under control, it will be difficult for us to chart a sustainable path for our contact-intensive economy and services and it will continue to drive uncertainty in employment,” a- he added.

In recent months, companies such as Mahindra & Mahindra, Amazon, Vedanta and JSW Steel have stepped up hiring amid increased attrition and skills shortages.

“With a wave of digitalization, even conventional sectors like manufacturing could see a 10% increase in labor requirements,” said Madhu Srivastava, HR director at Vedanta Group, adding that the company is investing massively to prepare young talents.

“Our hiring has seen a slight increase in the current year. We expect to hire at least 10% more than a normal year,” said Rajeshwar Tripathi, Director of Human Resources – Automotive and Agricultural Sectors, M&M. There is an increased need for new skills in specific pockets, he added.

Elizabeth J. Harless