NEW DELHI: After taking a big hit from falling rate of economic growth in 2019, the job market may remain muted in the new year as well in terms of workforce expansion and salary hikes as more and more companies are expected to prefer up-skilling of existing staff rather than hiring new ones, experts feel. With the technology-enabled disruption continuing to play its part, companies have become far more discerning in terms of hiring and there is a marked shift in their focus towards making the best of the available human resources. “2020 is expected to stay flat in terms of employment or, at best, have a marginal growth. With the GDP and key economic indicators yet to pick up steam, it remains to be seen if consumption and/or investments will go up and, if they do, then we have hope for employment growth,” Indian Staffing Federation’s President Rituparna Chakraborty said. Across industries, the percentage of organisations indicating an increase of headcount has gone down. However, roles for the ‘right people’ continue to exist in the market, experts said. “Initial quarter of 2020 may not be very exciting since the GDP growth has gone down and the organisations are being cautious for their expansions or new initiatives,” executive search firm GlobalHunt India Managing Director Sunil Goel said. The second-half of 2020, however, might look promising in terms of job opportunities of the companies resume looking at business expansion and new initiatives. The year 2019 witnessed a marked slowdown in automobile, manufacturing and engineering sectors, while general elections saw a status quo in government initiatives and policies for 2-3 months. Besides, cross-border security tensions also kept the job market muted. “The forecast for 2020 from a hiring perspective will further see a drop with a lower percentage of organisations indicating the need to expand workforce across industries,” Namita Bharadwaj, Principal-India Products Leader and Career- Consulting Leader (North, East & Bangladesh) at Mercer said. Bharadwaj said the companies will “continue to focus on internal talent – review what’s there, what’s required by the organisation and build and upskill the talent as per the organisation’s needs”. The major hiring trends for 2019 were automation, artificial intelligence and were more driven by niche skills, new-age positions and roles. Experts said 40 per cent of India Inc is focused on hiring for niche skills. Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML), Digital marketing, Design Thinking, Internet of Things (IoT), robotic process automation (RPA) and natural language processing/generation (NLP/NLG) are regarded by employers as the most crucial skills to hire. In terms of salary and increments, various HR firms and experts believe the year 2020 will see a muted activity. However, top talent and niche skills will continue to get more money. According to the latest Q3 2019 Salary Budget Planning Report released by Willis Towers Watson, salaries in India are projected to rise 10 per cent in 2020, marginally higher than the actual increase (9.9 per cent) in 2019. Experts further said for the skillset which are driven by analytics related jobs the increment will be higher, while the jobs which has been taken over by automation may have a lower salary increment in the range of 6-8 per cent. “The slowdown will no doubt result in layoffs and reduction in number of new hires in certain sectors. However, due to extensive digitization, job opportunities for those with skills in emerging technologies will continue to grow,” Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) India Associate – Advisory Services Swati Thakur said. “The demand for people with expertise in data science, iOS and Android technology, design engineering, etc. will be robust and not be affected by the economic slowdown,” she added. HR experts believe the technology continues to change the way we work and soft skills are becoming crucial differentiators as most companies believe that along with technical skills soft skills such as teamwork, creativity, critical thinking, are also contribute to its success. According to Monster Employment Index, Tier-II cities like Baroda and Ahmedabad registered higher hiring demand in 2019 as compared to the metros. Peter Nicholls, Vice-President, Mobilisation at Teamlease Services, said “Tier-II cities witnessed significant increase and continues to be on high priority for hiring managers as against Tier-I and Rural areas”. According to Kameshwari Rao, Chief Talent Office, Publicis Sapient, 2020 will be the breakout year for intelligent automation, as it will continue to bring enormous potential to automate end-to-end business processes. “In 2020, we expect companies to increase usage of AI for managing customer interactions, developing and testing products, personalising products and services, delivering connected equipment, and enabling deeper involvement of personal assistants in consumers’ day-to-day activities,” Rao said. Sector-wise, education, auto, logistics and real estate have reported a declining trend in terms of hiring and growth, mostly due to economic downturn. However, some sectors performed well. Information and technology, banking, e-commerce and services sectors bucked the trend and saw positive hiring momentum. “The telecom sector has registered a 35 per cent increase in online hiring demand, which could be attributed to the preparation for 5G by the Indian Telecom operators. Similarly, there has been a surge in demand for hospitality and travel professionals with a 12 per cent increase in 2019,” Monster.com CEO, APAC & Gulf Krish Seshadri said.

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