In developing countries like India, precarity of work is a major concern. Ravi S. Srivastava addresses this concern in his paper, Myth and Reality of Labour Flexibility in India. He says that precarity of work becomes a pervasive phenomenon as the organised sector’s labour market moves towards offering greater ‘flexibility’. Growing flexibility makes room for greater work-life balance, more income streams, fewer costs and increased resistance to unionisation in firms through the kind of contractual agreements signed between individuals and their employers.
However, this also leads to an increase in precarity of work as these contracts do not factor in healthcare, insurance, housing allowances and other forms of social security measures. This problem has grown with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, as repeated lockdowns have led to a marked increase in flexible remote work models. But, this begs the question — how does an increase in work flexibility affect employees’ job satisfaction levels, and in turn create situations for precarity of work?
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Job security vis-à-vis precarity of work
Job satisfaction is a culmination of several monetary (wages) and non-monetary factors (workplace culture). Employees with high job satisfaction are more productive, less likely to quit and more likely to make efforts to meaningfully contribute to their organisations, says academic Thomas Lange. Additionally, as per researchers Benjamin Artz and Ilker Kaya, job security is closely linked to job satisfaction, especially among individuals with low levels of formal education. However, these conversations are yet to occur in an Indian context.
If the WageIndicator Foundation’s salary survey data (2014-2017) for India is considered, the correlation between job security and job satisfaction becomes even more apparent. It was found that 46 per cent of respondents dissatisfied with job security were also unhappy with their jobs while 67 per cent of respondents satisfied with job security were content with their jobs. The following chart shows these findings.
Relationship between job satisfaction and job security
In the public sector, NGOs and co-operatives are known to provide greater job security than the private sector (Mak Khojasteh, 1993). This difference might appear to be slim, but that doesn’t disregard its existence. After running statistical tests (T-test), it was found that this difference is significant (at 95 per cent confidence levels). In other words, it is safe to assume that there is greater job satisfaction among public sector employees than private sector employees, which may be attributed to the high levels of job security offered in the public sector. The following graph supports this statement.
Relationship between job satisfaction and type of firm
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Gender and job satisfaction
Moreover, it was found that job security plays a more important role in determining job satisfaction for women than for men. To be more specific, women reporting greater job security were 3.7 per cent more likely to be satisfied and 3.03 per cent highly satisfied with a unit increase in satisfaction with job security. (Source: Authors’ own calculations using the WageIndicator Foundation’s salary survey data)
But why should we care about understanding job satisfaction in a gendered context? Manoj Kumar, in his article for Reuters, says that the answer lies in the overwhelming estimate of 84 Indian women unwilling to work for every 100 women between the ages of 15 and 60 years. Of those who are willing and able to work, 91 per cent are employed in the informal sector, says Shalini Singh in her article for The Scroll. This implies that every 15 of 16 women willing to work experience no job or social security. Job insecurity is a contributing factor to the lack of job satisfaction among India’s informal women workers (Rani, 2016; Gupta, 2018). This implies that the private sector’s increasing tendencies for ‘flexibility’, which hampers job security, may not be as beneficial.
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Firms should work towards ensuring greater job security for their employees. Doing so will only ensure greater job satisfaction, which increases employees’ productivity and willingness to contribute towards their organisations. Enhancing job security becomes even more important for female employees, since job security is a key determinant of their job satisfaction levels. Therefore, increasing flexibility should not come at the cost of an employee’s job security.
Firms could increase job security by building transparent and fair exit/firing clauses into contracts, offering stakes in the business (such as employee stock ownerships or ESOPs), providing upskilling opportunities and inculcating a sense of ownership by closely working with their employees in implementing any changes regarding steady incomes to incentivise retention.
Prachi Agarwal is a Research Assistant with the Department of Economics, FLAME University. She tweets @reachout_pra. Tanmay Devi is an incoming PhD Student in Economics at Rice University. He tweets @tanmay_devi. Rupa Korde is an Assistant Professor of Economics at FLAME University. She tweets @rupakorde. Views are personal
(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)