It’s time all stakeholders — employees, business leaders, government officials, and educators — have a serious discussion about how the nation can create better jobs for the next generation.
Wal-Mart has been getting good press recently for its decision to raise its associates’ wages to a minimum of $9 per hour. And it should. So should the unions and community groups that have been pressuring the U.S. retailer to do just that. They also deserve some of the credit for exposing Wal-Mart’s low wages, reliance of associates on food stamps and other public assistance, anti-union tactics, and bottom of the industry ratings on customer service and employee satisfaction.
In the 1987 movie Wall Street, Gordon Gekko’s memorable pronouncement that “greed is good” epitomized the worst features of American corporations that focus only on maximizing immediate shareholder returns without regard to the impact on their employees, customers, or communities.
That corporate caricature has continued to prevail. But recently, people ranging from Harvard University Business School Professor Michael Porter to leaders of the Sloan, Ford, Aspen, Hitachi (more here) and other foundations are putting forward the case that companies can provide great returns to shareholders and great jobs for employees.
In an exclusive interview with CNBC-TV18’s Malvika Jain on July 02, 2014, SP Kothari, Deputy Dean, MIT Sloan School of Management gave his take on the expectations from Arun Jaitely’s maiden Union Budget and his outlook on the road ahead for the Indian economy.
Below is the verbatim transcript of the interview:
Q: Government is in the process of preparing its first Budget since it took charge. What should be the priority areas where the government should focus?
A: Mr. Jaitley has to recognize and Mr. Modi also has to recognize that changing the furniture around the house is not going to make the house look that much different. It might make it look somewhat different but that is not a game changer and they have to think in terms of policies that dramatically alter if the goal is to increase the per capita income from where it is currently at about 1500 to say about USD 5000 in 10 years. Those game changing policies will have to focus on population growth, they will have to focus on FDI, they’ll have to focus on how our governance is and how our law enforcement is. Just to name a few set of policies that Mr. Jaitley should pay attention to in the maiden budget that he would be presenting on the 10th of July.
Q: Arun Jaitley has indicated that sector specific FDI is something that the government is going to be looking at. Do you think that that is going to be sufficient to spur investment flow into the country?
A: People’s decision to spur investment only partially hinges on what sectors are open for an investment. People’s decision to invest is influenced to a large extent by what kind of climate there is; climate includes what kind of law enforcement there is, what kind of labour supply there is, what kind of tax regime there is, what kind of regulation exists in general and is it easy to do business or not – open new businesses as well as close new businesses. So, the look has to be much more holistic in attracting foreign investment rather than a piecemeal approach by saying that we will open certain sectors for investment and wait for foreign investment to flow. I don’t think that is going to change or make a dramatic improvement in the investment climate.
As the release of January’s jobs report will likely remind us on Friday, unemployment is a double whammy for white-collar American workers. In addition to experiencing financial stress, many unemployed workers end up fearing that something is deeply wrong with them.
I interviewed more than 170 white-collar job seekers in the U.S. and Israel between 2004-2006 and between 2011-2012 for my new book, Flawed System/Flawed Self: Job Searching and Unemployment Experiences, and I was surprised by how many of the unemployed Americans confided that, in the course of their job searches, they had come to feel “flawed.” Israelis who had gone just as long without finding a job didn’t tend to blame themselves that way; they were convinced it was a flawed system that kept them unemployed. It didn’t seem likely to me that Americans were inherently more self-blaming than Israelis. Instead, my research revealed how the particular and peculiar process of American white-collar job searching — a process I call the “chemistry game” — renders the players vulnerable to a debilitating self-blame.
With retailers opening ever earlier on Thanksgiving Day and being rewarded with ever longer lines out their doors, it’s no wonder they see the holiday as a bottom-line bonanza that may benefit everyone — except employees who have to spend long hours at work and miss out on time with their families. Opening on Thanksgiving Day is yet another demonstration of how little retailers value their employees. That disregard is a natural result of the way most retailers view their labor force — a large cost that needs to be minimized. The result is millions of bad jobs with poverty-level wages, minimal benefits, very little training, and unpredictable work schedules.
Conventional corporate wisdom is that bad jobs are the only way to keep costs down and prices low. Otherwise, customers would have to pay more or companies would have to make less. But I have been studying retail operations for over a decade and have found that the assumed trade-off between good jobs and low prices is false.