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Fixing the people supply chain

The first phase of the government’s employment exchange portal project is set to roll out in a year.

Saumya Bhattacharya | Print Edition: August 9, 2009

When Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee was delineating the future of employment exchanges in India in his Budget speech on July 6, 2009, the project to modernise employment exchanges had already started taking shape. As you read this, the mandarins in the ministry of labour and employment are busy poring over the report that details the basic technology and solution architecture along with the commercial aspects of the project. This report was submitted to the government in second week of July, according to officials who did not wish to be named.

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Workers who tweet or visit social networking sites at work are 9% more productive than those who don’t, according to a study by Prof. Brent Coker at the University of Melbourne.
The study warns that the theory works as long as they don’t spend more than 20% of their time doing “workplace Internet leisure browsing or WILB”. But why are such people more productive? People apparently need quick breaks in order to maintain a high level of concentration at work.

The FM in his speech had announced the modernisation of employment exchanges in Public Private Partnership (PPP) so that job seekers can register online and approach any employment exchange across India. Under the project, a national web portal with common software will be developed. This will contain all the data regarding availability of skilled persons as well as requirements of such skilled people by the industry.

Says Manish Sabharwal, Chairman of staffing firm TeamLease Services: “I think the modernisation of employment exchanges is an overdue idea. The geography of work in India is skewed and of the three problems in our labour market (matching, mismatch and pipeline) this (matching) is the lowest hanging fruit.”

The matching problem (connecting a worthy candidate to an available job) sabotages efficient and effective labour migration for better opportunities and the emergence of a single Indian labour market, he says. According to the Employment Exchange Statistics 2008 report, 968 employment exchanges in India had placed just 2.64 lakh job-seekers out of almost 4 crore people registered with them.

What: A national portal that will contain all the data on employment
Level of preparedness: First phase of planning and conceptualisation completed
What next: Identification of implementation agency
First phase: To roll out in five states in a year
Approximate investment: Rs 500 crore in the first phase
Timeframe: Three years, for a national roll out

The seeds of the new project were sown with the award of a contract to National Institute for Smart Government (NISG), Hyderabad, in October 2008, to make an assessment of how employment exchanges can be computerised. NISG conducted a pilot study in consultation with the ministry in January and February 2009 on the prevailing employment exchange structures in five states—Haryana, Rajasthan, Orissa, Assam and Andhra Pradesh. The main objective was to identify existing gaps in four areas, namely people, processes, technology and infrastructure.

In the first phase of the project, employment exchanges in these five states will go online in the next 12 months. It will entail an estimated investment of Rs 500 crore, though the figure can vary according to the project model selected. The government is now looking at a 36-month target for the nationwide roll out. Government sources say there will be one national employment exchange portal and a portal apiece for each of the states. All the portals will be interlinked.

Of course, the project is not without its fair share of challenges. For starters, some states have expressed reservations about the feasibility of the model. The biggest trial, however, will be execution. Sabharwal points out: “There are some important lessons from the current PPPs operating for Industrial Training Institutes. True accountability for a private partner can only happen with empowerment because today private partners have many alibis for non-performance: no freedom to hire, fire or set salaries and no permission to spend more than Rs 850 without state govt approval being just some of them.”

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