Is Any Labour left in the Urban Cities? – Hyper-Local Labour Problems
With the lockdown extending till the 31st of May in the urban cities of Maharashtra, there seems to be arising a major Labour crunch with most migrant labourers going back to the hometowns owing to the running of special Shramik Trains across the country while lots of them have walked and cycled home.
With the lockdown leaving them no means of livelihood in the urban industrial areas, they were diverted to their hometowns which now sees the labour-intensive harvesting period. With the government announcing financial packages for MSME’s and free food distribution extended for 2 months in rural areas, it seems quite unlikely that the labour would return to the urban industrial jobs.
The high rents and expensive lifestyle without a source of income from their daily wages is another reason pushing them towards the rural areas for livelihood. The harvesting season that is currently ongoing with the sowing season for the upcoming session coming closer, the labour force are trying to find their livelihoods there: without the heavy lifestyle expenses of the urban regions.
Tukaram Kadam, who works as a CNC Machine Operator in one of the manufacturing units in Vikhroli, states, “We have been contractual labourers and it was quite easy for the company to axe us and reduce their costs. We are without our livelihoods and looking at the current situation of rising numbers in Maharashtra it looks bleak for the units to start. And even if they do start, they are not allowed to run at more than 33% workforce which makes us go down the pecking order in comparison to the payroll and local employees.”
Sujit Ghodke, an Engineering Graduate working with a bearings manufacturing company is quite sceptical of the situation, “Most of the labour that works on the machines and material movement has gone back to their native place with barely 30% of our staff being local & 14% hyperlocal causing a gap in the production. We have backlog orders for our customers who work in the essentials space. Our boss is now pushing us to take care of the production and material movement. Being an engineer, I don’t feel comfortable physically or socially to do labour jobs, but I have no option since I don’t want to lose my job with the pandemic situation and scarcity of jobs availability.
Another worry for most local labour and employers is the availability of skilled & semi-skilled labour in hyperlocal markets including urban establishments where a replacement may be available but may not be skilled for the production task at hand. As per data available with local MSME associations, they had a surplus of workers by at least 25% but a same on same replacement of skilled labour was not available.
They had a shortage of semi-skilled and skilled labour by 43%. They found it extremely hard to find a one to one replacement in the local markets. This was filled up by migrant labourers that were trained at a particular skill and they lasted at the job for a longer duration with commitment.
But with these labourers now gone for a decent amount of time, there is already a shortage of labourers – skilled & unskilled around the industrial areas for manufacturing and movement of products and raw materials, especially in Urban areas. Once the lockdown is lifted and companies resume, there seem to be two scenarios that are possible:
- The companies work at lower capacities with available labour waiting for the skilled labour to return,
- The companies start skilling the hyperlocal talent available to suit their working.
But all in all the overall manufacturing industries in urban areas have taken a toll and we just hope that the units do not face a shortage of labour once, we open up!
There are a variety of institutions that offer Government Certified Skill Development Courses for MSME’s focusing on the only required Skills for the jobs.
In Gurgaon & Delhi where manufacturing has been allowed to resume at 33% staff capacity have not reported any alarming deficiencies in the labour or skilling but they already sense a gap coming in when they ramp up capacity since all their local staff has been called to work.
The labour situation will be in dire straits over a period of 6-8 months before there is a chance for the labour to return if they choose to do so.