Quick Take

Should locals be given preference over migrants in employment?

7 Nov 2008

We asked... Milan Sheth, partner, advisory services, Ernst & Young; Vijay Kalantri, chairman and MD, Dighi Port; Malini Mehra, founder and CEO, Centre for Social Markets; Som Mittal, president, Nasscom; Sanjiv Kumar, vice-president and head, HR, People Interactive (I); K. Rengaswami, CEO, Amal Infosystems; Rajaram Agrawal, MD, TalentAhead India; Mangesh Joshi, GM - HR, Plethico Pharmaceuticals; Som Mandal, managing partner, FoxMandal Little; B.K. Narula, CMD, Silversmith India; Vivek Jindal, executive director, Minda Industries; Jagdish Amin, entrepreneur; Harsh Azad, founder, Flight Raja.com.

"Employment should be based on meritocracy. It is not in anyone's interest to lower standards."

Som Mittal, president, Nasscom


"Only to correct historical and persistent disadvantage should the state intervene (with quotas).

Malini Mehra, founder and CEO, " Centre for Social Markets


"For low-skill work, locals should be given preference over migrants in states.

K. Rengaswami, CEO, Amal Infosystems


YES BECAUSE: Giving locals preference will have a positive social impact in the long term. If found equal to the migrant on merit, the locals score over migrants because they are aware of the cultures and local systems. Indian companies should deploy local talent at execution as well as middle-management layer for delivery tasks. Local executives will be able to drive culture alignment and team productivity in far more effective manner and in less time. Local talent could also be useful in client relationship at middle management, especially if they have worked in that geography for a while. Senior leadership roles would largely depend on client requirements. Locals should be given preference within a limited quota system by government across all states.

NO BECAUSE: The criterion should not be the place of residence but competency, qualifications and skills of a candidate. It is natural that labour will move from one state to another for best job opportunities. The advantage of a large nation-wide market will disappear if every state acts like a separate country. In the absence of free mobility of labour, the national market will become segmented. The competitiveness of any business depends on getting manpower with adequate skills at the right cost - it doesn't matter if they are locals or migrants. Incentives should be given to industries being set up in remote and backward areas of the nation. This is the only way to ensure equal opportunity for all. It is ironical that Indians should be called migrants in their own country.

MAYBE BECAUSE: Companies should be free to hire workers from anywhere. If locals are qualified and can get the job done, then they should be preferred. Indian cities are under tremendous pressure. There is overcrowding, pollution and chaos. Most of this is because of the huge influx of migrants in cities such as Mumbai. More than the issue of locals or migrants, the real issue is whether cities can handle the pressure of larger populations. If there are two equal candidates, local one should be preferred. But this should not be made into a law. India should try to encourage job creation in all states. Reservation for locals is prevalent in many states. There is no harm in having reservation, as long as it does not affect merit-based selection. 
(Businessworld Issue 11-17 Nov 2008)

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