How Has The Lockdown Affected The Blue-Collar Workers?

The pandemic has largely impacted the economy and the employment statistics in India. Challenges and concerns regarding “work from home” are widely discussed on the internet. The challenges faced by the workforce beyond the white-collar are not discussed enough. While the white-collar workforce is working from home, most of the blue-collar workforce is struggling to keep organizations running.

As India’s economy struggled to regain its footing earlier this year, the number of job opportunities rose 32 percent during January-March 2021 compared to the preceding December quarter, hinting towards economic revival in the country, according to a report published by Michael Page.

At the same time, the struggles of the blue-collar workforce need to be acknowledged and addressed. The major struggle for the blue-collar employees is the same as any other employee- to keep their jobs. However, upon closer investigation, the nitty-gritty makes the picture clearer. The stakes are higher for blue-collar workers. The workers involved in a contractual agreement may have had differing implications when compared to permanent employees. Blue-collar hiring has also suffered majorly due to the pandemic. “Organizations have started to realize that they do not require a large contractual workforce to keep functioning. A large workforce of that sort was a luxury earlier”, explained Ravi Mishra, Aditya Birla Group. Many organizations decided to downsize as a result of the pandemic and the lockdown. This impacted the blue-collar hiring especially the contractual workforce in the factories and plants. The contract workforce has suffered the most, across sectors. This resulted in the large-scale exodus of contractual blue-collar workers, who had to return to their hometowns after being laid off. Those who were still employed had to settle for low wages and poor working conditions. Instead of working a full week, most of the contractual workers were engaged for a maximum of three to four days, based on the requirement.

Blue-collar hiring has taken a major hit due to the pandemic. Blue-collar workers are low-skilled employees and the nature of their work is obligatory because they don’t have many options. The bargaining power of the blue-collar workforce has also been majorly impacted during the lockdown. This has destabilized the power structure even more for blue-collar hiring when compared to permanent employees. The advantage for organizations hiring blue-collar contractual workers is that they can be removed whenever required.

White-collar workers have a more stressful work routine compared to blue-collar workers. Job security has become a concern for both white-collar and blue-collar workers, but there is less stress related to work for a plant worker. On the other hand, a corporate employee has to be involved in a more complex work routine, even while working from home. Corporate employees have been laid off over emails and telephone calls but removing permanent plant workers is a challenge thanks to the unions.

 The Silver Lining:

As a result of the pandemic, most of the white-collar jobs moved online, but blue-collar jobs were adversely affected. Although the blue-collar hiring opportunities declined significantly during the lockdown, there is a noticeable resurgence in the blue-collar hiring post lockdown. The sectors that have seen the biggest growth in opportunities are logistics and delivery. While there was a drastic decrease in demand for blue-collar hiring till April 2021, there has been a slow but steady rise as the services began to open up.

A report by Quickr Jobs specifies that the availability of the blue-collar workforce has been increasing. The report mentioned that blue-collar hiring on the online portal saw a 108% growth in applications in May as compared to April 2021. The report also outlines that the availability of blue-collar jobs has also increased, but the potential workforce still outweighs the number of available jobs.

In addition to logistics and delivery, another sector has seen tremendous growth as far as blue-collar hiring is concerned. This is the healthcare services sector. A large number of blue-collar workers were employed in both hospitals and home care.

It is essential to understand that the demand for various blue-collar jobs has varied depending on the spread of COVID-19 and the lockdown. One thing is certain, blue-collar hiring has been growing steadily and the demand for the blue-collar workforce has significantly gone up. The trend depicts that there will be further growth in the blue-collar sector. The pandemic presented an extraordinary situation for both the blue-collar workers and white-collar management, and the union leadership is aware of this situation. The understanding between the unions and the management has been stable, and both the parties are willing to do the needful for the growth of the organization.

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