PM Modi bats for remote work, flexible work hours, calls it the future

As India Inc debates the utility of remote work in a post-pandemic world, Prime Minister on Thursday strongly backed the work-from-home ecosystem and flexible work hours, calling them the future.

“The need of the hour is flexible workplaces, the work-from-home ecosystem, and flexible work hours. We can utilise systems like a flexible workplace as an opportunity to increase women’s labour force participation. By making the right use of women power, India can achieve its goals faster,” Modi said in his inaugural address at the 44th national conference of labour ministers and secretaries of all states and union territories. The two-day event is being organised in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh.

Harsh Goenka, chairman of the RPG group, had triggered a debate earlier this month when he warned information technology (IT) sector workers of a mediocre career trajectory if they dug in their heels and worked from home. “Employees now need to come back to the office, at least on some days of the week. We need to foster the spirit and mission of the organisation, the culture, the creativity, the camaraderie, the water cooler talk. Working from home is no longer a long-term viable option,” Goenka wrote in a LinkedIn post.

Most of the top conglomerates are asking their senior executives to report to work, although a few start-ups like Swiggy have allowed work from anywhere.

Modi’s remarks on increasing female participation in the workforce assumes significance as India has one of the lowest female labour force participation rates (LFPR) in the world. According to the latest Periodic Labour Force Survey report for 2020-21, the estimated LFPR for females stood at 25.1 per cent, in comparison to 57.5 per cent for males. The female LFPR has hovered at around 20 per cent for several decades.

Recalling his address to the nation on the 15th of August from the ramparts of the Red Fort, the Prime Minister said he had called for the full participation of the nation’s women power (nari shakti).

Cautioning against the dangers of lagging behind in the fourth industrial revolution, Modi said India missed taking advantage of the first three industrial revolutions because it couldn’t keep pace with the changing nature of work.

“Today the world is entering the digital era. The entire global environment is changing rapidly. Today we are all witnessing a new dimension of employment in the form of gig and platform economy. Be it online shopping, online health services, online taxi and food delivery, it has become a part of urban life today. Millions of young people are driving these services, this new market. Our right policies and right efforts for these new possibilities will help make India a global leader in this sector,” Modi said.

Modi said his government had removed a number of obsolete laws in the past eight years to keep pace with the transformations happening in the workforce and the market. “The country is now changing, reforming, and simplifying such labour laws. With this in mind, 29 labour laws have been converted into four simple labour codes. This will ensure the empowerment of workers via minimum wages, job security, social security, and health security,” he added.

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