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2021, a year of great churn in the job market

Urban Indians are getting hopeful about job-hunting now, and are also taking better control of their careers, the survey suggests. (HT)Premium
Urban Indians are getting hopeful about job-hunting now, and are also taking better control of their careers, the survey suggests. (HT)

  • More urban Indians lost jobs last year than in 2020, but most have found work again, shows the latest data from the YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey. A large chunk changed jobs, especially those employed in the technology sector, often for a better work-life balance

India’s labour market, which was in shambles during the first lockdown of 2020, is finally showing signs of recovery. Around 60% of those who reported losing a job in the past year have found their way back into the workforce, shows data from the latest YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey. More importantly, urban Indians are getting hopeful about job-hunting now, and are also taking better control of their careers, the survey suggests.

But the journey was not smooth in 2021, the year of the second pandemic wave. One in five respondents reported a job loss, compared with about 17% in a similar survey held in late 2020. This includes those who later found a job again. Younger Indians took a bigger hit: 24% of post-millennials reported losing a job compared to 17% of pre-millennials. Poorer and less educated respondents faced a greater brunt. While over 30% of those with just school-level education reported a layoff, the share was 16% among professional degree holders.

But all’s well that ends well. Only 8% of those in the job market were still unemployed at the time of the survey in November-December 2021, with the share being the highest among post-millennials (10%).

The latest YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey covered 12,900 respondents across 206 cities. Conducted jointly by the Indian arm of the global market research firm YouGov, Mint, and the Delhi-based Centre for Policy Research (CPR), this was the seventh of a series of bi-annual surveys examining the aspirations, anxieties and attitudes of India’s digital natives. Roughly 45% of the sample were millennials, one-third post-millennials (aged 18-24), and the rest pre-millennials (40+).

Brighter outlook

Not only has joblessness declined, the outlook on jobs has also brightened. This comes amid an overall improved perception of the economic situation of the country. As many as 15% believed the economy was already back to pre-pandemic levels, compared to 9% in the survey in late 2020.

Survey respondents were more likely to find a job-hunt “easy" than even pre-pandemic times. The bad news is that the share of such people is small: a majority (60%) still found it “difficult" to get a job.

But such a state had prevailed even before the pandemic. Unemployment has stayed on the higher side for a few years in India now (

Richer respondents—measured by their stated income levels—were relatively more optimistic about job prospects. Around 53% of those earning more than 1 lakh a month said finding a job was “easy" these days, compared to 41% of those earning less than 20,000 a month. The older cohort (40+) was more pessimistic.

Great churn

Around mid-2021, a new buzzword came up in the West—the Great Resignation—to capture the rising trend of employees leaving jobs on their own. The trend is now being seen more as the “Great Reshuffle"—that of job-hopping rather than dropping out. True enough, the survey data suggests something similar for India.

About 30% of those in the job market said they had either moved to a new job or were contemplating a job switch, while 14% had either left their job or were planning to do so soon to take a break, the survey found. Those below 40 years of age were far more likely to change jobs or opt for a job-break. The trend was less distinct across income and education groups.

But as testified by industry attrition data, the greatest churn took place in the technology sector ( Around 37% professionals in IT companies have already changed jobs or plan to do so. E-commerce and digital service companies such as Uber and Swiggy were next (34%).

Work-life balance

Indians are also increasingly considering factors beyond salaries in making career choices. As many as 24% of those who planned to or had moved jobs said they were looking for a better work-life balance. This motivation was nearly as prominent as the desire to get a salary hike. A small chunk also switched jobs to get to work remotely since they preferred that.

This is in line with other research findings, such as a recent JLL report that said a caring employer and work-life balance were now workers’ top priority, ahead of salary concerns (

Further, 33% of respondents who planned to or had taken a job break wanted to spend time with family, and 29% wanted to pursue startup dreams or other passions, the survey data shows. Around 14% also left their jobs because of burnout or unbearable work stress.

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