Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Central govt one of the biggest user of temps and contract workers in India

New Delhi: India’s central government is among the biggest users of temporary staff or contractual workers and spends around Rs.300 crore a year on them. 

According to data collected by the Seventh Pay Commission, in 2012-13, the central government spentRs.300.49 crore on contract or temporary workers. Among ministries and departments, Indian Railways spent the highest, about Rs.35 crore a year.

Though this is a fraction of the salaries the government pays its permanent workers, the pay commission believes that this will further increase. In 2012-13, the central government spent Rs.129,599 crore on salaries for its permanent employees. 

“While the expenditure incurred on contractual manpower is relatively small compared to expenditure on salaries of personnel serving in the government, they are in their own right significant and also likely to increase in the coming years,” the pay commission report said.

“If you join central government, state government and public sector undertakings – then jointly government will be a clear leader in temporary staffing space,” says Rituparna Chakraborty, senior vice president of TeamLease Services, a human resource company. 

Chakraborty, who is also the president of Indian Staffing Federation (ISF), a lobby group of staffing companies in India, says the Rs.300 crore annual expenditure on contract workers seems to be an “understatement”. Much of the temps are provided by small companies, she added. 
“Still, it’s good to see that government has openly started talking about temp staffing as contract workers is the way forward,” she said.

The Indian Audit & Accounts department (Rs.28.47 crore), health ministry (Rs.26.9 crore) and police including central armed police force (Rs.25.72 crore) and department of posts (Rs.19.55 crore) are other big spenders on temps. 

There are three kinds of contractual appointments made by government departments. First, work of routine nature like housekeeping, maintenance, data entry are normally bundled and entrusted to staffing agencies. These agencies then depute the necessary persons to carry out these tasks. Second, the sixth pay commission had recommended introduction of contractual appointments for select posts, particularly those that need high professional skills. Under this, suitable persons from outside are inducted in the government on negotiated salaries.

The third category is hiring on contractual basis retired government employees whose skills and expertise acquired during their tenure in government is found to be useful.

However, there is no unanimity among ministries over the use of contract workers. For example, the department of atomic energy while supporting outsourcing, recommended that a standard operating procedure be introduced through legislative means to enable outsourcing for routine activities such as maintenance, transport services, canteen services through professional agencies so as to avoid legal complications and exploitation of persons who have been taken on contract. 

Similarly, the Central Board of Direct Taxes told the pay commission that it supports “outsourcing, though it felt the need for effecting some streamlining”.

In contrast, the department of economic affairs was strongly against outsourcing and stated that “it should be used in the rarest of rare case for duties of a peripheral nature”. They were clearly against outsourcing of data processing, the pay commission report said. And the central government employees union was completely against contractual employment.

The commission’s report has underlined that the remuneration of temp workers is relatively low across several ministries and departments due to the nature of the work involved. However, it also showed that the department of electronics and information technology did engage a fair number of contractual workers at higher levels of remuneration. 

The commission did not give the exact remuneration or number of contract workers but suggested devising a clear guideline on the same to avoid exploitation even while addressing needs such as confidentiality and accountability. 

India’s flexible staffing market, mostly favoured by private companies, was worth Rs.19,900 crore in 2014, according to a report by Staffing Industry Analysts. 
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