Indian banks face an acute staff shortage even as the unemployment rate remains high

Indian banks face an acute staff shortage even as the unemployment rate remains high
Image: REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas
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There are not enough clerical workers at state-run banks in India, in spite of the fact that millions of people are looking for work.

Senior bank officials have been voicing concerns about the increasing pressure to sustain their credit businesses during the pandemic. For instance, 55 branches of the Bank of Maharashtra have no clerks at all, which means that senior-level employees are forced to do the work.

Why aren’t there enough clerks?

While jobs at government-run banks were once keenly sought after, the perception has seemingly changed because of stagnant wages and severe punishments for errors, some bank employees told Quartz.

“[Public sector] banks have always been understaffed,” a bank employee from Corporation Bank said on the condition of anonymity. “It has been more evident now because a lot of employees took sabbatical leave of up to one year during Covid…Everyone was quite scared because we have had absolutely no respite since the pandemic began.”

What is the current employment rate in India?

According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), the national unemployment rate rose to 8.32% in August, from 6.95% in July. The 30-day moving average as on Sept. 26 stands at 7.0%, with rural unemployment rate at 6.2% and urban at 8.8%.

In August 2021, the labour participation rate—a measure of the proportion of a country’s working-age population that engages actively in the labour market—was at 40.5%, down 2.1% in 2019-20. The employment rate fell to 40.0%.

“These two ratios are more important than the unemployment rate. They had fallen dramatically upon the imposition of the lockdown and have recovered swiftly but, their recovery has remained partial seventeen months after the first lockdown,” Mahesh Vyas, managing director of Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy wrote in a recent article.

How is the bank staff in rural India faring?

With thousands of migrant workers forced to go back to their hometowns during Covid-19 induced lockdown, the need for staff at regional rural banks increased significantly.

The government has been pushing bank officials to cater to the increased footfall at banks during adversity. But they have also been told to bring in more business to sustain the banking infrastructure in the country—and with a minimal workforce.

The All India Bank Officers’ Association (AIBOC) says that officers at state-run banks are at breaking point due to staff shortages and the pressure to sell third-party products like mutual funds.