Data Science and Technology leading the Indian job market upturn
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic had, in its initial phases, disastrous consequences for the Indian economy – GDP growth rates had become negative (the worst contraction in decades), unemployment levels were reaching record highs and further investment prospects looked rather bleak with several thousands of smaller firms even declaring bankruptcy. With the demand for human labour in India falling drastically, the unemployment rate rose to values as high as 23.5% at peak (during April 2020). The tumultuous economic climate thus understandably also saw the job market stay rather muted in terms of salary hikes, bonuses and workforce expansion as well.
With (i) several local firms transitioning to work-from-home scenarios, (ii) several international firms slowly transitioning their workspaces to the (cheaper) Indian workforce owing to international turbulence and an aversion towards the Chinese and (iii) government initiatives to enforce an ‘unlocking’ of the economy aiding several small and medium enterprises, there seems to have been a considerable positive shift in sentiment in the Indian workplace. What comes in as a rather welcome development is the fact that the unemployment rate has also continued on a steep drop-off trajectory. As of September 2020, unemployment stands at 6.7% – even lower than pre-COVID levels – and this number is only set to decrease.
IMAGE: Unemployment rate, India
Hiring has picked up heavily over the last month or so and several leading HR consultants believe that this trend is set to continue till the end of 2020 – and then beyond it, given that most major MNCs have filled up only about 70% of vacant positions as of yet. Hiring is thus set to further pick up once again, as firms look to consolidate – especially in their global technology and R&D requirements. According to the Financial Express, hiring in business continuity and risk management are set to be especially sought after, with companies ‘scrambling’ to find experts in the fields.
According to Sanjay Shetty of Randstad India, the primary focus for firms through the pandemic has been cash flow management, and not headcount reduction: “Rather than react in knee-jerk fashion, companies have refrained from downsizing. They understand it would cost them 4-5 times the amount to hire, train and bring people up to speed once the situation is back to normal.”
Additionally, with several changes brought about by firms’ digital transformation processes requiring different skillsets, a new demand for specialised labour has also been created. Given the current scenario, Michael Page India opines that the highest demand for businesses is set to relate to digital transformation as well as technology, engineering and data sciences. “These are in demand across the e-commerce, SaaS, gaming, performance marketing as well as mobility sectors.” Experts in the field of artificial intelligence and machine learning are thus set to hold centre stage in the coming months, as opportunities explode across sectors and geographies.
Outlook Money writes: “According to a recent report released by Manpower Employment Survey, there will be stable hiring plans for the upcoming three months as compared to last quarter. August had already started on a positive swing with over 60,000 jobs getting refreshed and relisted. Public administration, transport & utilities and finance, insurance, and retail estate are the sectors that will be leading the fourth-quarter job market, as the employers express the strongest hiring intentions in these sectors. However, hope does not linger in every sector, as manufacturing, mining, and construction sector are reported to be indicating a neutral growth in this quarter. According to the survey 44 per cent of employers kept the light of hope burning as they expect to return to pre-COVID-19 hiring within the next nine months.”