National Tripartite Dialogue on Future of Work: Challenges and Opportunities

FICCI hosts a discussion bringing all stakeholders – workers, employers, and government – on how India’s future of work may look like in years to come.

Guy Ryder, DG ILO, closing his speech on a powerful note
The world of work is undergoing a major transformation around the globe. There are several forces behind it. India particularly– the largest democracy, fastest growing economy with a young demographic – is seeing seismic shifts. The International Labour Organization’s Director-General Guy Ryder launched the ‘Future of Work’ initiative in 2015. In 2016 all ILO members States, of which India is a founding member, have been invited to undertake national "future of work" dialogues.

Y.K Modi, Executive Chairman Great Eastern Energy Corporation Ltd and member of ILO Governing Body, in his opening address commended ILO’s Future of Work centenary initiative and underlined its significance in helping to reflect on India’s growth trajectory. He flagged some issues that burden the Indian economy. He spoke of increasing informality, and the question of sustainability of small and medium enterprises – the so-called growth engines of our nation. He also mentioned the Indian economy’s astonishing 7.6 per cent growth being noticed globally. He said that despite the fact that India has labour that is cheap and capital that is expensive, policies that India has followed for the past five to six decades has been encouraging capital employment and to discouraging labour employment. He said, “We need to change the policies and change the mind sets so that entrepreneur doesn’t feel that labour is a liability instead the person should feel that labour is an asset. We also need to encourage self-employment only eight percent are in formal sector and the rest 92 per cent are in informal sector. This also means that many people are pursuing their own business which is a good thing but the government needs to see that there is an assurance of minimum wages, social welfare is taken care of because what the employers have to do is provide opportunities.”

Secretary Labour and Employment, Shankar Aggarwal, was asked to share the government perspective on the world of work. He spoke of India’s struggle to grow in the 70s and 80s and how it all changed with liberalization in the 90s. He referred to India’s enviable GDP while also expressing concerns on how this growth curve is lopsided. He said that one-third of India’s population are still below poverty line which is a depressing reality. “Unless we take care of the people who are poor, whatever we do, this growth is meaningless growth and not very sustainable. They have to be part of the success story.” He went on to say that real growth means inclusiveness. To do this, the government needs to provide decent jobs. Nearly ten million are added to Indian workforce every year however the number of jobs created is abysmal. Also quality-jobs must be on the agenda.

R Chandresekharan, President INTUC Kerela state and member ILO Governing Body shared a different perspective. The trade unions, he said, in India are even today struggling for minimum wage. Where is the platform, he questioned, to discuss the level of decent wage in this country. There has to be a government-sponsored programme for the people in the poor pockets of the country. "If there is a progress in GDP can this GDP and growth not be distributed to the underprivileged class?" I stand for more work and more benefits. Social security should be extended to all so that no one is left behind. He said that the government should introspect on how to provide decent employment and how trade unions and government and management should step in. He was also critical of labour reforms underway in India, saying that the government is taking away labour protection.

Future of Work is Future of Humanity, said Sudha Pillai
Sudha Pillai, Former Member Secretary Planning Commission, referred to the gender goal of UN 2030 agenda and said that the question of women participation is also being asked at the rural level which is why reservation was introduced in the Panchayat institutions. She spoke about the benefits of positive reservation for women in the workforce. Commenting on the disquieting trend of women dropping out of Indian labour force she said, “Increasing informalization coupled with lower participation rate of women in workforce should be looked at not just by the ILO but by the entire UN family.” She also attributed that part of this glum statistic could be perhaps attributed to women pursuing education, and that home-based work is not being counted. Most importantly she said, “Future of work is the future of humanity.” She said people across the globe work for dignity, to attain self-realization.

Guy Ryder, DG ILO, closed the forum with some thought-provoking messages regarding the world of work -- witnessing enormous processes of transformation that is not an overnight occurrence. He spoke that the future of work is structured around – work and society, decent jobs for all, organization of work and production and its governance. And that these thematic hooks will need to fuel more dialogues and hopefully provide scope for a common understanding on how to grasp with this rapidly changing world of work. He also pointed to the four mega drivers of change in the world today – technology, demography –specifically differential demography, globalization, and climate change. He said that inclusiveness, spirit of social dialogue, committing to end poverty through decent work for all so that no one is left behind are fundamental.

Closing on a powerful note, he said, “We are designing the future of humanity, and we are building social justice upon which peace depends. I think that’s every bit of our effort.”