Blue-collar workers comprise a significant part of the Indian workforce. The COVID-19 pandemic has opened new opportunities and challenges for this worker segment.
Even before the devastating pandemic rocked the world, growing developments in technology had begun to change the shape of the job market for blue, grey and white-collar professionals. The lockdown-induced uncertainty, created by the spread of the COVID-19 virus, impacted blue-collar workers extensively.
Yet, as the world reopens and businesses again find their footing, a silver lining in India’s employment market can be witnessed in a steady rise in blue-collar jobs, making the outlook for this demographic highly optimistic.
There is a decided growth in demand for this workforce in telecom, logistics and e-commerce segments as well as traditional industries like infra, manufacturing, and construction.
Blue-collar workers comprise a large percentage of India’s total workforce, which is estimated to be around 500 million presently, of which around 210 million belong to agriculture and allied sectors, while the remaining 290 million work in non-farm sectors including construction and real estate, manufacturing and utilities, retail, e-commerce, and transportation and logistics.
Technology will reshape the blue-collar workspace
As we enter, what the World Economic Forum terms as, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, developments in areas of artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and 3D printing and such, are all redefining the contours of the job market, especially for the manual blue-collar workers’ space.
Thus, large consumer-facing, as well as construction and infrastructure businesses, that have voluminous and continuous labour requirements, have started insourcing the employees from talent management firms focused on blue-collar segments. The digital databases maintained by these firms allow for job requirements to be matched against job seekers.
The digital solutions, often single-platform, also include options for remote screening, verification, self-onboarding, e-payrolls, attendance management, compliance evaluations and employee upskilling and training along with ensuring some basic benefits thus far denied to them.
They realise that respecting the needs of their employees such as guaranteed income and healthcare cover ensures greater commitment and improved productivity, which in turn fosters brand loyalty.
Along with women participation in the workforce, blue-collar employment creates a level playing field from all walks of life to earn livelihood. Hence from purely transactional relationships, the firms are moving towards sustainable and enduring ones, even with the gig employees.
Alongside mandated benefits, firms are investing in training and upskilling the workers.
Reskilling the blue-collar workforce for new roles
This trend of upskilling and reskilling is key for businesses and employees to survive and thrive. Tech advancements in AI and robotics are bound to make many manual and repetitive tasks redundant, but at the same time, technology creates the need for new skills to operate, improve and enhance itself.
Hence, more and more previously trained blue-collar workers will now be considered and upskilled for digital and tech tasks that aid in every aspect of the telecom, logistics and e-commerce industries that are employing them.
Undoubtedly, many jobs in traditional manual-labour-heavy sectors will be done more and more by AI-powered tools.