Published
Feb 16, 2022

The Blue Collar Crisis

Why India's blue-collar workforce might be heading for a crisis and what we can do about it??
An estimated 500 million workers are classified as blue-collar in India. With rapidly developing technology, companies prefer automating as many of blue-collar jobs as possible, but when it comes to the overall blue-collar ecosystem in India and their growing issues, automation is just the tip of the iceberg.

Various reasons, such as lack of literacy and skills, the unorganised nature of the workforce, and resultant lacunae in the processes developed to address their issues effectively, have only contributed to the increasing problems Indian blue-collar workers face. Collectively, these reasons are taking the workers towards a crisis. Here’s a broad look at some of the major ones.

1.      Uncertainty in Employment

In the last couple of years, there’s been a proliferation of online job platforms, forums, and other reliable and easy methods to scout and gain employment. Yet, blue-collar workers continue to rely heavily on age-old methods of procuring employment such as informal referrals and middlemen.

Local recruiting agencies and labour contractors too help labourers find employment, but they charge hefty commissions and cannot be expected to always provide opportunities to work in a supporting atmosphere.

Thus, blue-collar workers face the constant fear of losing employment along with uncertainty of regaining it, and the current processes and systems only add to their woes.

2.      Falling Prey to Scams

The combination of increased mechanization, low availability of jobs, and acute financial needs results in blue-collar workers being extremely vulnerable to fake jobs created by fraudulent recruiting agencies. They unsuspectingly get involved in debt traps, and in extreme cases, even data theft.

Most blue-collar workers considerably lack financial awareness and have little-to-no access to options of institutional financial help. This often drives them into submitting themselves to loan sharks who lend money without much compliance or paperwork but indulge in extremely exploitative practices in terms of collecting interest and principal.

Blue-collar workers face persistent and deep-rooted financial instability, which significantly results in financial stress. It kicks off the vicious circle of inability to spend on healthcare and relevant upskilling, which further leads to negative impacts on their performance and long-term employability.

3.      Threat and Impact of Attrition on both Employees and Organisations

On one hand, loss of jobs has resulted in growing numbers of workers looking for employment; on the other, lack of stable and supportive working conditions is spiking attrition rates among blue-collar workers across industries.

While workers suffer from this dual blow, recruiters and organisations are affected too. Costs of hiring, training and retention are high and increasing, and their recurrence due to attrition leads to delay in completion of projects, reduced productivity, and negative impact on the profitability of the organisation and the financial well-being of its employees. This further weakens an organisation’s capacity to generate a number of well-paying and stable jobs and contracts the pool of jobs available to blue-collar workers.

4.      Impact of Technological Advancement

To add to the woes of blue-collar workers, advancements in the fields of Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and 3D printing pose new challenges for their performance and employability.

There are very few avenues for training and upskilling blue-collar workers in these areas. This makes it more difficult for them to remain updated and retain their jobs amidst technological advancements compared to their white-collar counterparts.

5.      The COVID-19 Effect

The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened their situation furthermore. Especially in India, a lot of workers lost jobs during multiple lockdowns and were forced to return to their native places. With little or no skills that could help them survive during the pandemic, many see dimming prospects of returning to their former employment and income status. With the pandemic still prevailing, the uncertainty continues and aggravates steadily with time.

Conclusion

One industry which has opened doors to employment during the pandemic is the e-commerce sector. The increasing demand for workers in logistics has created local employment opportunities for blue-collar workers, along with the dual advantage of reasonable pay with lesser living costs and attaining financial security.

However, a huge effort is still needed to provide sustainable solutions to the issues faced by the blue-collar workforce. Organisations that have focused on needs of white-collar workers, now need a reliable partner that understands the blue-collar ecosystem, its needs and pain points, and can help it improve its financial and medical well-being. This is not only necessary for employee welfare, but also the overall health of the employing organisations.

We at ESPL understand the huge disparity in the availability of HR solutions for blue-collar workers and for white-collar workers and are actively working to bridge the gap. Our wellbeing solutions are tailored specifically to address the on-ground problems and issues of blue-collar workers and help them improve their productivity.

ESPL’s products and services offer blue-collar workers a chance to combat financial stress, poverty and access education, skill development, and very importantly, medical aid.

Only by making the interest and welfare of blue-collars part of the larger HR policy can organisations achieve sustainable growth in productivity. On a macro scale, such a policy will definitely go a long way in boosting an organisation’s productivity and performance, while avoiding the crisis looming large over India’s blue-collar workforce.

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