Friday, February 27, 2015

Today, an electrician earns as much as an engineer

In a country where engineering degrees are chased by many an aspirant, salary statistics thrown up by a leading staffing solutions company come as an eye-opener.

The starting income of an electrician, who is unskilled and perhaps has just cleared Class XII, is Rs 11,300 per month while a desktop engineer, who is an engineering graduate, earns only around Rs 3,500 more. What's more, the desktop engineer's salary rises by about the same margin as the electrician's over a period of time—to about Rs 19,000 in five years, and around Rs 30,000 in eight years. So in about eight years, the electrician too would be comfortably earning over Rs 26,000 per month. Narrowing this salary gap is the severe shortage of workers like fitters, welders, electricians and plumbers on the one hand, and the growing number of engineers trying to get into the IT sector.

These are some of the startling findings in TeamLease's latest salary primer, which is a comprehensive overview of the labour market. "In the last 6-7 years that we have been studying salary patterns, the monthly incomes of electricians and other workers like plumbers and welders have only risen. On the other hand, entry-level salaries of engineers, especially IT engineers, have remained more or less the same," says Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder & senior VP of TeamLease Services. The desktop engineer, incidentally, ranks the lowest in the tech sector.

When the IT boom started a decade ago, points out Chakraborty, there was a huge demand for engineers. The demand has remained the same—about 4 lakh—but the number of engineers trying to get into the IT sector has zoomed to over 15 lakh. "This has resulted in a mismatch," says Chakraborty, who is also president of the Indian Staffing Federation.

Sourcing of these skilled workers is becoming harder than before, agrees G R Dastoor, senior VP, industrial relations, Godrej & Boyce, which taps various sources like employee references, employment exchange and head-hunters. But head hunters are also finding it hard to locate workers with these skills.

"Of the 10 electricians required in the industry, we are finding it difficult to get even two. A large infrastructure company recently told us that if we could bring them one lakh welders, fitters, plumbers and electricians, the company would be happy to employ them. That's the kind of demand for these workers," says Chakraborty.

Now, with the infrastructure sector on the verge of a potential boom, the demand for electricians, plumbers, fitters and welders has grown exponentially. Tata Steel, for instance, is presently setting up a 6 million ton greenfield integrated steel project at Kalinganangar, Odisha. "These skills (electricians, welders, fitters and the like) are needed in large numbers during the construction of the steel plant—some for a short duration," says an official spokesperson of the company.

There are socio-cultural barriers that prevent youth in urban and semi- urban areas from acquiring vocational skills. Dastoor says the industry needs to work with communities along with the government and the NGOs to create a buzz around acquiring these skills and according them greater prestige and importance.

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