Will The Great Resignation Come to India? Yeah, No, Maybe?

While some experts think that it is impossible for India to see 'The Great Resignation', others talk of a 'variant'.

4 min read

The long-term ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic are only just beginning to be detected across the world – with the mass exodus of workforce seen in the West being one of them.

In the United States, resignations have remained extraordinarily high in the last few months.

As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in August 2021 alone, around 4.3 million people resigned from their jobs in the country, an increase of 242,000 from the previous month. This figure escalated to 4.4 million in September 2021.

Although official data indicate that resignations were high in retail and hospitality sectors, many employees also had a desire to switch jobs and rethink their professional choices.

Christening this phenomenon 'The Great Resignation', Anthony Klotz, workforce expert at Texas A&M University, believes this to be a matter of reorienting priorities in people's work-life equations.

Not only the US, as per a Microsoft Survey conducted across 31 countries earlier this year, a staggering 41 percent of employees were looking to quit their jobs this year.

So, what about India– a nation once engulfed by horrific waves of COVID-19, and perhaps the one most likely to have unimagined fallouts from it?

While some experts postulate that it is nearly impossible for India to experience The Great Resignation akin to the West, others stress on an India-specific variant.


A Phenomenon Shaped By Unemployment, Economic Disparities

Among the determinants which would unequivocally impact the experience (if any) of a phenomenon such as The Great Resignation in India are economic disparity and unemployment.

"There is no Great Resignation phenomenon in India," Mahesh Vyas, CEO and Managing Director of Centre for Monitoring of Indian Economy (CMIE), tells The Quint.

"Household incomes of a very large proportion of households are lower than what they were a year ago – and the unemployment rate is high. In these conditions, it is not possible to see The Great Resignation phenomenon in India," he elaborates.

With reports of ascending rates of joblessness inundating our news, a crisis of unemployment has plagued our country amidst the pandemic.

In April 2020, when the global unemployment rate was recorded at 6.5 percent at the onset of the pandemic, India stood at a peak of 23.52 percent.

And it is still fluctuating. Last month, CMIE data showed that unemployment had risen to 7.75 percent– a rise from 6.86 percent in September.

India's IT Sector Witnessing a 'Variant'

However, Prabir Jha, HR strategist and founder and CEO of Prabir Jha People Advisory, believes that India is witnessing a 'variant' of The Great Resignation in the tech space.

"India is witnessing a variant but more in the tech-centred startup world. To ascribe attrition everywhere to things beyond the usual would be a little exaggerated. Some life changes surely have prompted some career calls but we are not in a similar 'The Great Resignation' that the US is talking about," Jha tells The Quint.

Estimates by hiring firm TeamLease demonstrates that the IT industry in India will have a double-digit attrition rate, around 22-23 percent, in 2021.

In view of this, Jha observes that a 'domino effect' can be seen as a result of a boost in the opportunities within the tech industry.

"The spurt in opportunities in the technology sectors, both in the established large companies and startups, is throwing many opportunities, and people are making their picks. The replacement or backfills are in turn creating a domino effect across the industry."
Prabir Jha to The Quint

Neeti Sharma, Co-Founder and President of TeamLease Edtech also notes, “Increased demand for manpower in the technology sector is leading to a higher resignation rate. And these people are working in some other companies. Of course, some people are also opting for gig jobs as that part is growing. However, people in India are not quitting and not working anywhere," quotes Deccan Herald.

Vyas, too, adds, "To the best of my understanding, there is a big increase in the demand for skilled labour in the IT industry in India."

Not The Great Resignation, But The Great Switch?

Vyas goes on to say, "There is attrition in the Indian IT industry but that is because people leave for better prospects. They are not quitting working."

This observation on the motivations underlying the rise in attrition in the Indian tech space highlights that in contrast with the US, professionals in India are not exiting their workspaces due to 'COVID-induced enlightenment' but just leaving for better jobs.

The trend discerned by Klotz in the US seemingly originates from the burnout and 'epiphanies' stirred by the pandemic.

In the wake of the grief, exhaustion and adversity amid COVID-19, many were prompted to embrace uncertainty and do things they would otherwise hesitate to do.

Speaking to The Washington Post, Molly M Anderson states, "...I think it must have been a pandemic epiphany. I was working at home for my firm that I was employed at for a long time and realised I had this moment, I guess, where I knew that it was the right time for me to start my own firm."

Data also points towards a Vyas' conclusion. A survey commissioned by Amazon India sought to gauge the the effect of the pandemic among professionals in the country.

Conducted in August 2021 with a sample size of 1,000 across India, it showed that as many as 68 percent of employees were looking to switch industries due to COVID, while 59 percent were actively seeking work.

From an HR lens, Jha tells The Quint that this presents an opportunity before the leadership, who can "reimagine the way they hire and lead."

He adds, "However, the core issue will be of the practised, not just the articulated culture. People will expect space, freedom to experiment, to express, flexibility in workplace and work hours, to learn and have leaders they enjoy spending the way with. It is a tall order and leadership will need to be empathetic and agile, while being inspiring and demanding."

(With inputs from The Washington Post and Deccan Herald.)

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