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25 Jan, 2012 06:55

India’s temp market: Scam to bypass labor laws?

India’s labor laws promise full-time workers a range of benefits, from decent wages to paid holidays. But employers have found a legal loophole, leaving many employees exploited through the fear of losing their jobs at any moment.

With one of the fastest-growing populations in the world, getting India’s eager young workforce into skilled jobs comes as no mean feat.Business tycoon Manish Shabarwal thinks he has the answer – a temp agency that trains, and then touts, its labor,while skirting India’s stringent labor laws.“The original idea existed all over the world – the temporary staffing. We have hired somebody every 5 minutes for the past 5 years,” he says to RT. Filling posts and bringing home a paycheck – it sounds like a perfect match. But for Indian firms there are extra, more dubious, benefits.India’s tough labor laws make it hard to fire workers. Plus permanent staff get decent hours, holidays and a living wage – none of which apply to hiring temps.It is a cost-cutting gift, keeping employers smiling all the way to the bank.India has always been a famous destination for foreign companies to outsource their work at a cheap cost. But there is a new growing trend for Indian companies themselves to outsource their workforce to agencies like TeamLease. Instead of hiring workers for themselves, businesses from malls to restaurants in India are now using agencies to hire and manage their workers for them.Shabarwal however insists his workers do benefit – they receive vital training they are unlikely to get otherwise in India’s poverty-stricken regions.“They come from the lower middle class, people who cannot afford a very expensive education,” TeamLease training center employee Gopika Sharma explained to RT. “It is particularly for people who have the skills but don't know where to go.. They don't have the grooming to them.” One of the candidates – Kusum Panthri- agrees. She is enrolled in one of the many nationwide TeamLease training centers to improve her English skills, and do a computer accounting course to make her stand out from the crowd to potential employers.“I was very worried and nervous about sitting for job interviews,” she explained to RT. “I am not fluent in English, so when the teachers speak in English we get motivated and gain some confidence.”But critics say employees like Kusum should be higher-paid and permanent. And because agencies keep the jobless figures down, many believe this lets India avoid tackling its labor law maze, which allows firms to get away with dire wages and sacking staff on a whim.But Shabarwal insists the priority for those on his roster is putting bread on the table.“And that is really when we came in and said: ‘Look, a job is better than no job’. And employers were not hiring people because they were scared of India's labor laws,” he explained to RT. “We were saying: ‘Look, there are lots of kids who are not trying to mooch off employers or use the law as a weapon in their hands to hit the employers. They just want an opportunity to get a job”.