The Evolution and Future of Work Culture during COVID 19
Updated: Jun 11, 2020
Work Culture in India has come a long way from where it was during Independence.
For over three centuries, the subcontinent was relegated into becoming a labour market for the British. Indians worked as slave farmers alongside providing personnel to the Royal Army
When India gained independence, unemployment was not seen as a major problem. We assumed that as an independent economy, the market and labor force will grow proportionally and this accommodates the future employees that India had to offer. India post-independence faced a multitude of issues, unemployment being one among them. During this period, we relied heavily on agriculture to sustain our economy to try and unemployment gap.
However, due to improper planning, India addressed the issue is small, ineffective steps over nearly two decades by introducing five-year plans until the last 1960s. The unemployment figures double in the next decade (from 5 million to 10 million) by 1972. It is also worth noting that we face structural unemployment and not frictional
A steady growing economy did not meet the demand for employment across the country. This led to the introduction of several employment-generation and poverty alleviation schemes that were run for yet another decade.
Despite the schemes, the opportunity did not meet the need and the situation continued to remain adverse. The adequacy of economic growth remained elusive and this contributed to the emergence of the New Economic Policy (NEP) of 1991. This policy could effectively be summed up in 3 words; Liberalization, Privatization, and Globalization. This began a turning point in what was considered employment itself in India. The liberalization of the economy increased the nature of opportunities available in India.
A country that for long relied on its primary sector and the secondary sector now was given a green light to expand its tertiary sector with little to no restrictions. The Indian workforce could manage a higher payload of work at a much more cost-effective rate which was a key attraction for many foreign IT companies. In short, India offered access to cheaper skilled labor to many IT
companies. The exporting required (hardware included) fell right into the existing systems of Indian trade while expanding an exorbitant job market to channel the Indian workforce.
India, now ready to embrace the global job market, began to accept the ways of employment considered foreign to them. The IT Industry over the last two decades has become the name and face of India across the world. The IT sector at the dawn of the new century contributed to 1.2% of the GDP (1998) to 7.7% of the GDP (2017).
Now, this helps us understand what shaped the Indian Tertiary Sector as it has been the one that has evolved the most from Independence.
The Primary Sector: India has long been an agrarian economy. Post-independence agriculture and its ally industries contributed to nearly half of India’s GDP. Now it is estimated to be approximately 15-17%. It is worthwhile to be noted that nearly 50% of Indians are employed within this sector.
The Secondary Sector: The Industrial Sector of India, along with the rest of the world peaked and now sits at 28-30% of our GDP. (inclusive of Natural Gas, Water, Construction, etc). This sector accounts for 25%-30% of India’s workforce (Registered and Unregistered)
The Tertiary Sector: India, now firmly a service-based economy has established a strong base with this industry that contributes to nearly 52-55% of our GDP. The Tertiary Sector is commonly referred to as the “backbone of the economy”
Primary and Secondary Sectors:
As the lockdowns started being implemented across India, the Primary and Secondary Sectors continue to suffer due to the lack of reforms and evolutions in the sector. Unfortunately, almost every service that comes under both sectors is considered essential.
A significant majority of the population is within the reigns of these sectors and these sectors are what produce and deliver essential goods such as food, dairy, water, electricity, and other daily necessities. The economic systems built around this sector are now also essential such as delivery, procurement, and storage. Although there is a green light for private entities with regards to the delivery, the final product reaching the consumer is now more difficult than ever.
Thus, and a wide sect of India’s Primary and Secondary Economy that has been a cartwheel rolling in its system is now forced to evolve. Economists now churn out as many reforms as possible, to ensure the sector that feeds and cares for the citizens of India is capable of functioning without risking the lives of the workers.
The Primary and Secondary Sectors of the world also are getting affected. If you take the efforts taken by China in Wuhan with to ensure there is no disruption in food production and in fact step up the production of more goods to ensure that this essential sector continues to thrive.
There's an equilibrium of sorts when it comes to supply chain management, especially the agrarian economies. Every country's equilibrium is now wavered due to the virus.
Countries now face a unique choice, they can choose to go back to the old equilibrium, the way it was before corona. The other option is considering the possibility of changing this equilibrium itself. For example, India, a country that for the better part of 2 decades been a leading exporter of goods and services, can look to reshape their economy.
It would probably be worth mentioning the fact that our country faces an interesting challenge of producing a demand surplus (in terms of grains) and not a genuine surplus. How we could re-think our economy (the primary sector in particular) to re-define supply chain management
Every country is now going back to their chalkboards and redoing calculations to see if they can turn the wave of corona into something that will wash away any flaws in the economy and evolve into a better economy.
The Tertiary Sector
The tertiary sector has been better prepared to deal with innovation in the face of a crisis. This could be attributed to the rise of technology seeped its way through the deepest in this sector. Thus, almost every major IT Organizations already has a working plan for COVID 19 – whether it is work from home or minimalizing physical presence.
Platforms like Zoom, Cisco WebEx, and Skype long existed on our shelves gather dust, and used in isolated instances or for International calls. HR, timestamps, notifications, asynchronized communication platforms lay ready for this sector to tap into and continue functioning at near-optimal efficiency.
India is now, more than ever, truly a global market for employment. That does however come with its drawbacks for many people.
1. Maintenance Workers: With offices closed, many of the jobs centered around the IT Industry, such as cleaning, security, valet have all been cut down until further notice.
2. Cut downs: Most companies now have specific goals and specific targets to achieve. It is profitable for them to function with the minimum required employees which means a chunk of the workforce has been laid off or has been suspended without pay until further notice.
3. Smaller Economic Ecosystems: Since the IT industry employed a vast population of the middle class of India, many businesses such as restaurants, catering, provisions have long revolved around the “IT Crowd” as their prime target audience are now left in limbo. This also applies to similar ecosystems that revolved around targeting students.
India needs to evolve or innovate. For far too long, the Primary and Secondary Sectors have been monotonous with little or no updates to their working structures and methods. The Government should not actively look to reform these sectors to be sustainable in situations such as these.
The tertiary sector is now in limbo. The future of Employment is now in the hands of the leaders of such companies. Do they defer back to their original structures once the COVID -19 Wave blows out? The more likely option is that these companies double down, the industry will slowly convert into an economic system devoid of the concept of a specific gathering place known as “Office” unless required.
In a country like India, removing the standard for office as a pivot for businesses opens up the market for so many new actors to enter. The dense population and urbanization kicking into effect, real estate prices are now higher than ever. To remove the requirement of a working space itself from the capital to start a business and make it a norm in the society would open the sector to a myriad of new businesses, entrepreneurs, and manpower to enter.
Man is a social animal, the concept of offices to establish working relationships, trust, and work culture will return but it will no longer be the pivot behind the success of these organizations. The Indian idea of a “9-5 job” at an “office” is now being buried. What grows from the dirt is what we are waiting to see. Whether these organizations choose to swim with the tide or fight against it.
With no conclusive end in sight for this lockdown and the future in murky waters. India must gear up to accept a new norm that “Work from Home” is now “Work”.
The Coronavirus pandemic has struck the world and left many families scarred and broken. India with such a vast population seems to be on a downward spiral in helping the affected. Many people still in need of help. If you are capable of donating please do try to do your how much ever you can. Know that for many, one meal means life or death. Donate to an entity of your choice. If you don’t know where to go here is a link that can guide you.