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India Inc wants to go back to the office: Indeed study

As the pandemic disrupted India’s labour market, accentuating concepts like remote-work and work-from-anywhere, Indeed – the world’s #1 job site, studied the migration of white-collar employees from tier-1 cities of employment to their native towns – the triggers, the trade-offs, and the outlook of employers. Surveying employees and employers across 12 cities in India, India’s Job Market: The Pandemic & White-Collar Migration report by Indeed focuses on the trend of ‘reverse migration’ as economic recovery accelerates.  Key findings include:

Reverse migration is a passing trend

Indian companies appear less willing than their global counterparts to support remote work post-pandemic. 59% employers are not in favour of remote working in the new normal and 7 in 10 say they will not continue it once a solution to the pandemic is in place, even as 3 out of 4 employers highlight no decline in employee productivity due to remote working. 67% large and 70% mid-size Indian firms as opposed to their global counterparts (60% large and 34% mid-size) are not in favour of a post-pandemic, remote working set-up.

Even digitally agile startups indicated they will revert to an in-office model post the pandemic with 90% saying they would not like to continue remote working once a solution for the pandemic was in place.

46% employees also said reverse migration is temporary and 50% employees said they were willing to shift back to a metro from their native place if the job demands it. They attributed a future return to aspects like availability of  WFH options (29%) and bringing the pandemic under control (24%), with only 9% saying they will stay on in their native places permanently. 1 in 2 employees say they are willing to shift back to a metro if their job demands it and only 32% are willing to take any form of pay cut even if it means finding a job in their native place.

The willingness to take a pay cut in order to work from their hometowns decreases with hierarchy – 88% senior-level employees say they were unwilling to take a pay cut and 50% say they would shift back to a metro if their job demands it.

Of the findings, Sashi Kumar, Managing Director, Indeed India said, Job postings on Indeed are a real time indicator of labour market activity in India. We’ve noticed an interesting trend where “remote” and “WFH” job searches were up 437% in March 2021 from the same period last year, a reflection of rapidly evolving work modes.Remote work has served as an equalizer, pushing companies to reimagine and reorganize their work models, encouraging workers to adapt to new concepts of flexibility and productivity. However, in an emerging market like ours where culture outweighs convenience and problem solving is far more effective when people come together, it will be interesting to watch how this plays out as we progress towards our recovery.”

Women more willing to move but Boomers fear being left behind

60% female employees, more than double their male counterparts (29%), say they are willing to relocate to their hometowns owing to the lack of a family support system in a current environment marked by quarantined living conditions or employers aiming to reduce the cost of employees by increasing working hours.

However, women (60%) are more unwilling than men (42%) to take a pay cut to continue working from their hometowns. In a situation that already threatens to widen labour market inequalities, 59% women, over 29% men, believe it will be difficult to find a job in their native place. 60% female employees say they are willing to move back to a metro from their native place if the job demands it.

Baby Boomers (56%) are less willing than Millennials (38%) to relocate to their hometowns. The pandemic has hit Boomers harder than Millennials in terms of job prospects and nearly twice as many Boomers (44%) than Millennials (25%) say it will be difficult to find a job in their native place. Also, 61% Boomers are unwilling to take a pay cut to work from their hometowns.

Millennial workers, thought  to be a more agile cohort, seem more inclined to relocating and twice the number of Millennials (44%) than Boomers (22%) say they are unwilling to move back to metro cities even if their job demands it.

Hope remote working will foster development in Tier-2/3 cities

30% employers might consider setting up operations in small towns to take advantage of the reverse migration trend. Large and medium businesses – both global and Indian – are willing to setup new operations or enhance existing operations in Tier-2/3 cities in significant numbers varying from 50% to 88%. In addition, 50% of employees are optimistic that reverse migration can cause their hometowns to develop into metros either in the near future (21%) or in the long term (29%).

Employers list internet services (30%), app-based businesses (30%) and retail, healthcare and entertainment centres (27%) as key areas for business development in metros of the future. But the expansion of schools and colleges received a poor show of hands at 14% threatening to exaggerate the current talent shortage in these cities that serves as a deterrent for employers. More than half employers (55%) said there are talent shortages in upcoming metros.

While this could present an opportunity for educational institutes, essential services, and delivery partners to scale up, it indicates that reverse migration could be a temporary phenomenon.

About the survey:

This survey was conducted by ValueVox on behalf of Indeed among 1200 employees and 600 employers. The survey was conducted between the month of December 2020 and January 2021.

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