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Special feature - Unlocking Lockdown Opportunities

Job loss to job creation – Unlocking Opportunities in Lockdown

On International Labour Day, today, we are unfortunately staring at destruction of jobs rather than creation of employment that will help put the economy back on its wheels.

Even a much satisfied rich or middleclass family would now feel the pinch of collapse of the job market. The morning newspaper boy, the car wash guy who asks for the key, the iron wala and above all the maid servant - we miss all of them and we feel the pinch because their absence has been much, much longer than ever before. We do not know how many of them have managed to go back home and will go now after travel relaxation.

As I threw this Labour Day topic for discussion, many thoughts poured in. There is a general consensus that the much neglected health sector must get priority. There is an urgent need for capacity enhancement for affordable health care – not just for taking care of COVID-19, but for the rest of the ailments that seem to have taken a backseat. WHO has already expressed concern at the postponement of vaccinations for a host of diseases. Many children will die, said WHO DG. That’s startling. Healthcare must go beyond corona. Even in virus care, we need to be ready for other kind of attacks.

“The healthcare system needs a revamp,” says freelance journalist Vivian Fernandes. “The covid-19 crisis has shown that there is no alternative to universal public healthcare. We cannot depend on private hospitals and medical insurance to provide us affordable and quality healthcare. We need to invest in prevention and not just in cure. The discipline of epidemiology cannot be neglected with new viral epidemics set to emerge. Delhi’s mohalla clinics and the health systems of Tamil Nadu and Kerala provide models which the other states can emulate,” he says.

The International Labour organization (ILO) has observed that the lockdowns world over “are now affecting almost 2.7 billion workers, representing 81% of the world’s workforce.” The ILO estimates that 1.25 billion workers, representing almost 38% of the global workforce, are employed in sectors that are now facing a severe decline in output a high risk of workforce displacement, points out Dr T Vinay Kumar, National President, Public Relations Council of India (PRCI).

We need to shed the herd mentality as we have been following in agriculture. We tend to go for pulses farming if there is a shortage in a particular season. The result is glut in the following season with the crops rotting. Agriculture deserves good, long term planning. So does health care.

We need reforms in the planning stage itself while planning for everything. The mind-set of working on short-term goals must change. Take a small example. We build a road over bridge at Kanjur Marg and start expanding it within three years. Can we not plan the road capacities based on at least 20-year traffic projections? We build a nice concrete road and then dig them up within three years for a flyover in the middle of it. This unavoidable, senseless construction has happened on the Thane-Belapur road in Navi Mumbai.

The labour and intensive infrastructure expenditure should be planned to avoid wastes and aim at solving the existing problems rather than creating new as it happened in the cases mentioned above.

Talking of other avenues for job creation, Srishti Rajasekhar, B Voc Broadcasting and Journalism student at Sree Sankara College, Kalady, says the government and panchayats can utilise this opportunity to complete road works and other pending PWD contracts under the MNREGA and JNNURM act. The task could be awarded to local contractors and the workforce should be from that area, to avoid Interzone travel. They should work in cycles, with a rest period of two weeks (speculated incubation period), to rule out the possibility of infection.

Suraj Rajasekhar, M Sc Physics Graduate and lecturer at St Joseph’s College, Bangalore recommends community-level organic farming with the exchange in cash or kind. Schools and colleges are closed till August-September. Tutoring could be taken up for school students by college students and educated others in the community, says Suraj.

The digital shift has opened the gates to a lot more opportunities. The work force can enjoy the freedom with more commitment and liability. The online world is going to be the in-thing in education & training segments. Most of the universities have already shifted their classroom to digital space. So inline tuition, virtual class rooms etc are the future, says Vinay who is also a PR, branding and broadcasting consultant.

The future is not bleak, according to Vinay as the global industries plan to shift their manufacturing base from China to developing countries like India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh etc. This should open a lot of new avenues in the job market.

Journalist Kishore Singh has a different view. The hair cutting saloons who were shut during the lockdown will have a roaring business soon after the easing of the restrictions. Similarly, he feels, carpenters, plumbers electronic mechanics, garages will all bounce back.

The most flourishing business will be online coaching classes, Kishore opines.

Anita Guptrishi, GM, corpcom at MMTC, explains that the current free time given enough opportunities for the creative. “Since we don’t have to travel to offices we have two hours extra time in our hands. This time can be used for physical exercises such as yoga,” she says.

And a lot of time is available at our hands even after doing all household chores.  Book writing is a very good option which can be tried by all of us where people can share case studies, experiences or their thoughts on future prospect businesses 

“There is a very good option of making some videos on motivational talks, songs and jokes which can be a good publicity tool. And who knows they can fetch us some extra money!” 

In the coming days the emphasis is going to be on virtual so there is enough scope for creativity here, Anita says and exploring indoor games for exercise and entertainment. Who knows when the lockdown will end! 

 

 

 

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