[TechSparks 2020] Jobs For All: A discussion on formalising gig workforce, building digital identity, and more
According to the International Labor Organisation (ILO), 4.1 million people have reportedly been laid off in the last six months because of the pandemic, and this number is only expected to grow. A few more indicators highlighted by ILO were:
- More than 70 percent of the workforce work without a written contract and have nil benefits.
- Most of the blue- and grey-collar workers were sourced from unrecognised channels and small-time recruitment agencies which have zero accountability towards the workers or the employers post joining.
- The organised employers constitute only 20 percent of the market share, while 80 percent are unrecognised players.
With dismal job creation, it becomes important to understand how the Indian startup ecosystem can tangibly make an impact and solve India’s jobs crisis. At YourStory’s flagship virtual conference TechSparks 2020, entrepreneurs from different sectors came together to have a conversation around solving this challenge for the country's youth.
Moderated by YourStory CEO and Founder Shradha Sharma, the panel included Annanya Sarthak, Co-founder of Awign; Nimish Sharma, CEO and Co-founder, Workex Solutions; and Mithun Srivatsa, CEO and Co-founder, Blowhorn.
Here are some key takeaways from the panel discussion on creating “Jobs For All” for the future workforce of India.
Fighting the core demons
According to Annanya, India has been fighting three demons — unemployment, underemployment, and lack of skills. The three philosophies which can work here are:
- Upskilling people: where companies like BYJU’S and Unacademy are already making progress.
- Bringing jobs: through marketplaces like Workex
- On-the-go learning: building an ecosystem in which we get them to fulfill that job.
“So, we believe that we cannot just stop by providing them options, and training; we have to go the last mile, which is to get them to fulfill jobs on the ground,” said Annanya.
Technology is the key to success
Annanya believes that the key to creating jobs on the ground is technology. “A lot of people have tried to solve this problem, but haven't used technology a lot. That is what we are trying to do a little differently,” he added.
As Mithun shared, at Blowhorn they have a concept called “lowest user” — a person who is absolutely illiterate. The focus then is on how to make an illiterate person use technology.
“That was how we started looking at technology. Now, if you have to solve the problem at scale, you have to make the technology accessible across the length and breadth of Bharat,” he added.
Building a digital identity for informal workforce
As Workex’s Nimish indicated, around 80-90 percent of the workforce within enterprises in our country is informal. He also added some other numbers here. From a total of 500 million workforce in India, non-agricultural workers number to around 200 million, from which 150 million are working as blue- and grey-collar workforce.
“I consider that the government has done everything to bring them to the formalised economy. So that's where we are trying to do our bit of providing a digital platform in a way that the entire journey and the lifecycle of a workforce management is completely recognised,” Nimish added.
Building a robust infrastructure for gig workers
As highlighted by Annanya, if we look at demand, apart from a few industries which are fortunate to be riding the wave, every other industry has been trying to cut costs and looking at layoffs as a primary solution.
“Now, as disappointing as it sounds, there is a silver lining here, that the best solution is a gig economy. ‘Gig worker’ is a new-age term, but their contracts are way different than usual contracts, which is a core issue,” he added.
Nimish further emphasised that what needs to be conveyed is the formalisation part. There should be a framework wherein players actively working in this domain can pronounce themselves in certain categories or specialisations. At the same time, taking steps to recognise this gig workforce and financially formalise is the need of the hour.
TechSparks - YourStory’s annual flagship event - has been India’s largest and most important technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship summit for over a decade, bringing together entrepreneurs, policymakers, technologists, investors, mentors, and business leaders for stories, conversations, collaborations, and connections that matter. As TechSparks 2020 goes all virtual and global in its 11th edition, we want to thank you for the tremendous support we’ve received from all of you throughout our journey and give a huge shoutout to our sponsors of TechSparks 2020.