About 8.1 million migrant workers from India who had been working in the Gulf region, are now left staring into a black hole, courtesy the coronavirus pandemic. The majority here are blue-collar, semi-skilled and unskilled workers, who were repatriating their salaries to India. For most, it’s a reset button, as they look for new, domestic opportunities amid economic uncertainty, to make ends meet.
The Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC) addressed their plight through a webinar on ‘The Global War for Talent In A Brave New World’. Noted parliamentarian Dr Shashi Tharoor, Bhaskar Bhat, the Chairman of TATA SIA Airlines-Vistara, talent strategist and leadership coach Gyan Nagpal and Poorvi Chothani, Managing Partner at LawQuest and Past President, West India Council – The Indo-American Chamber of Commerce (IACC), engaged with each other and the audience in this discussion. TV personality Cyrus Broacha moderated this conversation.
“COVID-19 will inaugurate an era of deglobalization. Lots of countries are turning isolationist and protectionist. COVID-19 has convinced many countries that foreigners are to be feared. That strict border and immigration controls are essential”, said Dr Shashi Tharoor, in a note on the current times we’re living in.
These mean that the Indian migrants who’ve either come back or are stuck in the US, Gulf and other countries are facing hostility and uncertain economic stability.
So, how do the international migrants, the Indians overseas in US and Gulf regions adapt to such times? Poorvi Chothani, Managing Partner at LawQuest and Past President, West India Council – The Indo-American Chamber of Commerce talked about focusing on short term projects and the possible development of special visas for in-demand, skilled labour.
“My wish is that there would be special visa categories carved out for specific classes of service providers, like healthcare workers, people in the information technology sector – all of the people who need to head into countries and help out with specific temporary projects and their implementation at short notice”, said Chothani. Maybe in a deglobalized world our dependence on professionals who need visas to complete projects in other countries will decrease.
On a macro-scale, the COVID crisis, restrictions and the need for self-reliance, is varying between becoming protectionist and isolationist, to working on self-reliance. It has also changed how we perceive talent, work and employment, according to panellist Gyan Nagpal.
“We’re seeing a fundamental shift in the concept of work itself. The work being done is disconnected from where it’s been done at and who’s doing it. The very concept of employment is also changing. It will become a much clearer value exchange, and therefore all of us have to start thinking about how to monetise our skills”, Nagpal said.
“In the post-internet era, for the first time, the job is mobile like talent, and there is a conflict among talent mobility and job mobility. In high context environment, we’d always have talent mobility. In other commoditised and algorithmic jobs, the job itself would move. What’s more, we now have many sources or ways to access capability in the modern world. We can buy talent, build talent, borrow talent or bot talent – that’s the fundamental choice we have when we think about where should work be done and how should work be done”, added Nagpal.
What about travel and people movement? Bhaskar Bhat, the Chairman of TATA SIA Airlines-Vistara, found people sentiment to be better, even as airlines came together to provide safety, lesser contact and better health standards. “Right now, doubt, uncertainty and fear are stopping people from travelling. Still, we see more domestic flights with 50 per cent occupancy, when we had expected only 25%.”