Like many other states, Karnataka, too, increased minimum wages before the elections. Whatever Tuesday’s outcome of the polls may be, the government has failed to realise that this move adversely affects employment, especially at a time when the spectre of jobless growth haunts India.
Wages of Higher Salaries
BPO is a labour-intensive industry where manpower costs contribute to over 65% of total costs. As a result of the progressive rise in minimum wages and other inputs costs such as rent and electricity, the industry has been operating at very low margins over the last few years. The growth of domestic BPO mirrored the growth of the telecom industry, as millions of customers called up for activation, billing and other customer service issues. Close to 50% of the domestic BPO business is, in fact, for telecom clients.
With the telecom sector going through challenging times, telecom clients are unable to provide any price increases. Other BPO clients, such as e-commerce and financial services companies, also operate in an extremely competitive environment. They are, in fact, asking for the reduction in prices as process efficiency increases over time. Things are more amplified in Karnataka, where the government has increased minimum wages by 80%, and that, too, retrospectively from December 2017. As a result, many domestic BPO centres are likely to either close or ramp down. Employment in the sector in the state could come down by over half in the next 12 months, impacting over 25,000 jobs. Government officials have dished out the specious argument that the average cost of a driver in Mumbai is Rs 15,000 a month. Actually, the demand for drivers, especially after the expansion of Uber and Ola, has pushed up wages further in the metros. But, unfortunately, there is no demand for white-collar jobs in Tier 4 cities, such as in, say, Shimoga in central Karnataka, even at Rs 7,000 a month.
Many clients, unable to pay for higher prices, are going to smaller BPOs, some of who, contravening the spirit and letter of the law, provide far cheaper resources. Large and medium BPOs providing bulk employment can’t take this under-the-radar route. Moreover, this kills the entire purpose of raising minimum wages.
Source: Economic Times