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May 18, 2024

Labour Shortages Hit Indian Cities During Lok Sabha Elections

Amid the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, numerous Indian cities are grappling with significant labour shortages. As reported by The Economic Times (ET), this scarcity is largely due to migrant workers returning to their hometowns for lucrative election-related jobs.

The 2024 Lok Sabha elections, spanning 44 days, mark the second-longest election period in India’s history. This extended timeline has opened up a variety of well-paying opportunities for migrant workers back home, ranging from participation in election rallies and distributing pamphlets to providing tenting, vehicle services, catering, and food supply.

Late last month, staffing company Quess Corp faced an urgent manpower demand for a multinational client in Hyderabad. To meet this demand, Quess Corp had to fly in about 100 unorganised workers from Bihar and Jharkhand, highlighting the severe labour shortage in the southern city.

The states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal, which are the largest suppliers of migrant workers in India, are conducting elections across all seven phases from April 19 to June 1. This extensive election schedule has created a severe labour deficit in states heavily dependent on migrant workers, including Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and the Delhi-NCR region.

In response to the labour crunch, many companies are offering various perks such as accommodation, food, and travel to attract workers. Kartik Narayan, CEO of staffing at TeamLease Services, told ET, “Due to extreme heat and summer conditions, along with elections in various states — where financial incentives around temporary roles have significantly engaged local populations — intra-state availability of migrants has temporarily dipped by 15 per cent and interstate by 22 per cent.”

The shortage has significantly impacted the construction, manufacturing, and services sectors. Roles such as machine operators, material handlers, welders, salespeople, service technicians, delivery and warehouse professionals, as well as facility management and food services, are particularly affected, according to industry insiders.

While companies typically experience a labour crunch each summer due to workers returning to their villages for sowing and wedding seasons, this year the lengthy election period has exacerbated the issue. Engineering giant Larsen & Toubro has reported a 10-15 per cent drop in labour strength across its projects in recent months. The company has dispatched teams to villages in eastern and northeastern states to remobilize labour. An L&T spokesperson remarked, “This year, the movement has been slightly more because of the elections. We expect the situation to stabilise by the second week of June.”

To mitigate the labour shortage, Quess Corp has set up interactive job spots with counselling rooms at bus stops in major industrial hubs such as Hosur, Chakan, the outskirts of Pune, Krishnagiri, Noida, Tirupur, Sri City, and Narasapura. These initiatives aim to recruit talent as soon as they arrive.

Despite these efforts by large companies to attract talent with various incentives, thousands of smaller firms continue to struggle. The prolonged election period and resulting labour shortages underscore the critical need for a more resilient and adaptable workforce management strategy in the face of such large-scale national events.

As the Lok Sabha elections progress, the hope is that the labour situation will stabilize post-elections, allowing businesses to recover and resume normal operations. The current scenario serves as a stark reminder of the interconnectedness of political events and economic activities, and the need for strategic planning to mitigate such impacts in the future.

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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