In April 2017, Venkatesh completed his Master’s in Commerce from a University in Madurai. He was always a consistent academic performer. Ever since his graduation day, he has been one of the top 3 ranked students from his batch. With a remarkable academic record, he was all set to enter the job market. He aspired to be a salesman for a financial services company. While all his batchmates were gainfully employed, Venkatesh remained unemployed for two years after his graduation. The reason: he was a paraplegic, a person with a disability.
Venkatesh’s condition is a result of a larger systemic problem facing the Indian workforce. People with disabilities, despite being qualified, do not get employed, and the ones that do get employed, find it difficult to perform since the ecosystem in which they work is not conducive to them. This problem is not just faced by people with disabilities but also by women and people with alternate gender identities. These types of exclusions have serious economic costs.
According to a study done by the International Labour Organisation, the exclusion of persons with disabilities from the labour force is related to economic losses which are as large as 3-7% of the country’s GDP. If you include the economic costs of exclusions based on gender, the costs rise to over 35% of a country’s GDP. According to these estimates, India can be losing as much as USD 1 trillion because of exclusion.
The need of the hour now is to focus on creating a workforce ecosystem that is geared towards equitable opportunities, inclusiveness, and growth for all frontline workers globally.
The frontline workforce ecosystem has gone through a rapid formalisation process post-pandemic. Many organisations have cozied up to digital transformation, using digital tools and software to discover, onboard, and manage the frontline workforce. This has led to a significant expansion of the formal workforce. According to BetterPlace Frontline Index Report, in FY 21-22, India created 8 million new formal frontline jobs and by the end of the current financial year, the number can go as high as 9 million. However, despite rapid formalisation, the workforce is still not very inclusionary. According to our estimates, 94% of the frontline workforce comprises men with only 6% comprising women. If one were to take the estimate of the contribution of people with disabilities to this workforce, the numbers would be negligible.
With rapid formalisation underway, the next logical step is to make the workforce more inclusive, and to do so, we have taken the first step. To build this ecosystem together with Indian enterprises, BetterPlace has declared 2023 as the year of ‘Equitable Opportunities, Inclusivity, and Growth for Frontline Workers’ and we have taken some key initiatives.
Bridging the gap for women: BetterPlace has partnered with British International Investment (BII) to upskill and make 100,000 women employable for the formal workforce. To achieve this, we are partnering with research organisations to understand the hurdles which are stopping women from entering the formal frontline workforce. Parallelly, we work with leading Indian enterprises to design upskilling courses for women and distribute them through our platform, making them easily accessible to everyone free of cost on their mobile devices. With these upskilling courses, women would be able to then take up employment in these companies.
Making workspaces inclusive for people with disabilities: We are also partnering with government organisations and leading institutions to not only spread awareness around making workplaces more accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities, but also conducting upskilling courses to make people with disabilities employable in the frontline workforce ecosystem.
Gearing the frontline workforce towards growth and economic safety: We are also using our platform prowess to provide financial services to the frontline workforce to not only improve their financial well-being but also allow them to grow both financially and vocationally. We are using our large enterprise base to distribute insurance through our platform for frontline workers while at the same time giving access to our job-finding and upskilling platform Rocket to frontline workers to help them discover jobs to increase their earning potential.
In June 2019, Venkatesh was able to land a job at a leading financial services company after being upskilled on the BetterPlace platform as a salesman and now has been promoted to a supervisor. With his disability not being a hindrance to his growth journey, he is now confident to start a family and provide for them.
Economic benefits aside, the human cost of creating an equitable and inclusive workforce is invaluable and we must all strive to build this ecosystem.