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Will my job be safe in 2009?

Leslie D'Monte & Seema Sindhu in New Delhi | December 26, 2008

The latter half of 2008 was a great equaliser when it came to employee insecurity. Investment banks axed staff after Lehman Brothers collapsed, Jet Airways [Get Quote] retrenched almost 1,000 employees and then took them back under government pressure, information technology companies put a freeze on recruitments (Infosys Technologies [Get Quote] offered sabbaticals) and real estate developers offloaded people in large numbers.

Barring a few sectors like fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) and consumer durables, no segment was left unscathed.

So what does the crystal ball hold for 2009? A dipstick check with human resources (HR) consultancy firms indicates that it will not offer much succour on the employment front.

"It won't be safe. 2009 will test employees. Only excellent performers will be safe. Companies will be very selective about who they retain. Increments will be in single digits for best performers and for average performers, it will be around 5 per cent," said Rakesh Malik, practice leader for globalisation and business transformation at Hewitt Associates.

Hewitt is betting on sectors like insurance, telecom (where new licensees are entering), infrastructure and Special Economic Zones that may look up with the push being given by the government. The HR consultancy firm views real estate, financial services, textile and retail as "uncertain".

"In general, no job will be safe. Even those who are doing well can't be sure of retaining their jobs in the sectors hit by the downturn. There will be either no increments or marginal increments. Variable pay may rise, but not fixed pay," added A Sudarsan, vice-president (sales and marketing), Expertus HR.

Job safety depends on the sector you are in, according to Sampath Shetty, vice-president, TeamLease Services. The picture for banking and financial sector will be grim, but insurance will keep hiring, he said. There won't be much retrenchment in the BPO sector, but there won't be much hiring as well. The IT sector will start hiring in pockets -- as and when there are new projects or existing projects get renewed.

"There could be 20 to 25 per cent salary cuts in the IT sector," he said, adding there won't be any increment in most sectors.

A new Mercer study also indicated that most firms in India are likely to cut back on salary increases they had planned in 2009. They are also likely to curtail overall hiring.

E Balaji, CEO and director, Ma Foi Management Consultants, had a slightly different take on the subject: "Eight jobs out of 10 are safe. Increments will be in high single digits."

Ma Foi counted pharmaceuticals, healthcare, life sciences, energy and telecom as safe. It placed IT and stock market-related jobs in the uncertain category.

Several companies in the so-called high-risk sectors have bucked the trend. For instance, instead of retrenching employees, Angel Broking has hired over 500 employees every month since September 2008.

"We believe in preserving the best talent for the time to come. We started the year with 3,000 employees and we intend to close it with over 5,000 employees. We have slowed our recruitments numbers since September and are now focusing predominately on talent and hot skills at all levels," said a spokesperson.

Nevertheless, to work their way through the crisis, companies are already exploring the possibility of cross-movement of existing employees to fit requirements.



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