Expectations of employees are rising - and not just for IT workers, MBAs and the like. A report in today's ET notes:
Scarce talent, buoyant growth and surging attrition have led to hefty pay hikes, pushing companies to focus on employee well-being and better work environment. But most of it seemed to be happening in the rarefied world of white-collar, air-conditioned corporate offices.
Scratch a little deeper and cast the net wider. Perhaps not as brightly, but India seems to be shining at the bottom of the pyramid as well... There could not have been a better example than the construction and infrastructure sector.
The story gives the example of 34 year old Panda, a high-school passout working for Gera Developments as a construction worker. The company he works for is providing a crèche and makeshift school for children, basic medical care, comfortable huts to live in. What's more, he's given training on how to use new tools and they are very particular about safety a well.
ET estimates that the $70-billion construction industry is likely to create 90 million new jobs by 2012. Around 60 million of these will be unskilled and 25 million skilled and semi-skilled workers.
The question is, how many will benefit as much as Panda? Honestly, I would still say he is one of the lucky ones. A few construction companies doing high end work, employing better work practices and also perhaps having a sense of social responsibility will offer such environments.
The rest will continue to operate in the old manner, where every pair of hands is a nameless, faceless and replacable asset.
Now in the longer run this will lead to a restless kind of situation for the bottom of the pyramid (BOP) worker. He knows a few, very few people out there are offering a chance for a better life. He is not one of the lucky ones.
Will he accept his fate and continue toiling? Or will he join some kind of agitation. Will strikes, lockouts and unions come back into fashion??
A friend who went to Kolhapur on a market research project recently remarked,"I met a lot of young unemployed boys. They are sitting idle not because there are no jobs but because the jobs they are getting are not 'good enough'." A Rs 1200 p.m. job as a clerk, for example.
"The minimum they want is Rs 2000 p.m.," she said. So the moment a Big Bazaar outlet opens in Kolhapur, you can imagine the rush of applications. Incidentally, the first lot of applications was actually from nearby Sangli where there is already a Big Bazaar.
Hopefuls who were turned away there knew a new outlet was coming up in the neighbouring town and hence were the first to flood it with their resumes. The 'grapevine' already had it that this job is more modern, upwardly mobile and well paying than the regular small town variety. The excitement was palpable!
Of course, government jobs remain attractive to the average young person of Kolhapur. But as we all know there is a 'rate card'. It takes Rs 1 lakh to 3 lakhs to get into a lowly official post in the first place.
In comparison, a Big Bazaar offers the chance of succeeding on one's 'merit'. It's your English ability, knowledge of computers, personality that matter. And this is especially attractive for Muslim youth who perceive - as well as experience - that many other doors are closed for them.
So it's not just the white collar - or 'those who can' - raising their aspirations. Across the spectrum, it's a silent revolution.
The creamy layer of the workforce, however, has more options. More mobility. What happens when the BOPs start dreaming of - even demanding - the same?