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Improve skills, take unpaid internships — experts’ advice on surviving slow jobs market

In ThePrint's 'Safe & Sound' series, experts talk about how pandemic has changed the jobs  market, unemployment levels and what new hiring trends will look like.

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New Delhi: Job seekers should look at improving their skills by taking courses and opt for unpaid internships to build their resumes, experts said while expressing hope that the jobs market will soon improve given the vaccine roll out.

Speaking at ThePrint’s ‘Safe and Sound’ series, presented by Facebook, on workforce and employment during Covid-19, Sanjeev Bikhchandani, co-founder of Info Edge, the parent firm of jobs listing website, said it is important for those out in the job market to upgrade their skills. He advised freshers to treat the current year as a gap year and use the route of free internships to build their CVs.

“By July, things may be much better,” he said, alluding to the government’s vaccination drive.

Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder and EVP at Teamlease Services Ltd, said that learnability, adaptability, flexibility and fungibility will be important skill sets during these times for job seekers. This may also mean that the job seekers may have to settle for jobs that do not match their aspirations but are essential for their survival.

She pointed out that hiring had picked up in the three months of September, October and November, but the December to March months will be crucial as they typically are slower months when it comes to hiring.

Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) showed that unemployment rates, which had peaked in April to June last year, again started inching up in December after remaining low in the five months after June. Unemployment rate in December was at 9.06 per cent as against 6.5 per cent in November.

Also read: Unemployment rate falls in September, shows CMIE data, but it’s still too early to celebrate

Learnings from the pandemic: WFH is possible

Some of the important learnings from the pandemic have been that work from home (WFH) is possible, employees can be more productive, and companies that have cash reserves and preserve it can survive the pandemic, said Bikhchandani.

While some proportion of the workforce may continue to work from home, many industries will want their employees to come back to work, Chakraborty said. She added that smart staffing trends will emerge wherein only a small, lean core permanent workforce will be in office while the rest will be hired through other routes such as fixed-term contracting.

Going ahead, only a few sectors, like technology and print media, may continue to work from home along with some supporting job roles and job profiles in some other sectors.

Also read: India’s Gen Z is getting left out of formal jobs, paid less, LSE study says

Salaried jobs have not returned to pre-pandemic levels

CMIE data showed that though employment levels have recovered from the lows of the lockdown months, salaried jobs that were lost have bounced back the slowest. In fact, the worst impacted have been the younger age group. All age groups below the age of 40 years suffered a fall in employment till December 2020 this year, according to the data.

Bhikchandani said salaried jobs will take time to come back to earlier levels.

“Companies have gone through substantial trauma in April-June. They won’t go back to earlier levels of headcount unless they are very confident that things are going to be back to normal. Companies’ profits have grown but the toplines have not grown. Companies have cut costs,” he said.

“The moment demand comes back, services will bounce back first. Manufacturing is a slightly long term thing.”

Chakraborty said that everyone who has lost a job has not got it back. “People are letting go of their aspirations. We are not in a position to say when the lost jobs will return to the market,” she added.

CMIE’s managing director and CEO Mahesh Vyas said an across-the-board deterioration in labour market conditions raises concerns about the recovery process.

“This does not look like a problem of one sector or one region. It seems to be a secular decline. Employment has been falling month-after-month since September 2020 when it was estimated at 397.6 million. As a result, employment has not only remained consistently below year-ago levels, it has also fallen far short of the two-years ago levels.

“Employment in November and December 2020 was lower than it was in November and December 2019 and was also lower than it was in November and December 2018, respectively,” he said in a note dated 4 January.

Watch the full episode here:

Also read: 10.1% who killed themselves in 2019 were unemployed, Maharashtra tops suicide chart — NCRB data


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  1. Just one question! Why the writer is provoking young generation to be free slaves of the companies? The point raised by Mrs Chakraborty is useless since we all know the hiring platforms are run by idiots, and these agents are of actually zero value in the job sector.

  2. I ‘d rather freelance or do personal project or contribute to open source than work for some lousy employer who can’t pay their interns.

    Work for free doesn’t sound like ‘ safe and sound’ advice at all.

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