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Employment Overview: India

by Mary Anne Thompson, founder and president, Goinglobal, Inc

Despite an economic growth slowdown and workforce and infrastructure challenges, India is still hiring more than any other Southeast Asian country across a variety of job sectors. 

By Mary Anne Thompson, founder and president, Goinglobal, Inc. 

India is the world’s largest democracy and one of its largest economies, but the country’s rapid economic growth has slowed recently. Even still, compared to the listless global economy, India is a bright spot, with its burgeoning middle class, growing consumer markets, impressive foreign direct investment (FDI) and large English-speaking population. Its unemployment rate currently stands at a relatively low 4.8 percent. 

Despite its bright spots, India does face challenges, including widespread poverty, poor infrastructure and workforce shortfalls. Twenty percent of Indians are poor, and casual labor is their main income source. India’s infrastructure problems extend to its roads, railroads, ports, airports, education, power grid and telecommunications, presenting impediments to its economic growth. The vast majority of India’s workers labor in the informal sector, without benefits or social security. India also will have the world’s largest number of young people by 2022. The challenge is enabling them to become employable. India boasts 677 higher education options considered universities or university-level institutions. But, while India has some very good technical universities, employers find more than half of candidates lack the necessary skills. 

Even with these challenges, hiring is expected to be active in the short term. Most of last year’s 13.4 million new jobs in Southern Asia were created in India. Amazon alone is expected to create 7,500 temporary jobs in India this year. While the outlook is positive in all four regions of the country, the best prospects for jobs are in India’s South region, according to ManpowerGroup. Taking a longer view there is some concern of severe job shortages as about 280 million Indians will enter the job market between now and 2050. 

Key Trends 

Indian returnees: Some US-based Indian professionals are looking into returning to India. Typically, they have

at least three years of experience and earn 80,000 USD to 150,00 USD per year. New hiring of Indians in the US will likely slow this year, thus affecting the exodus of professionals from India, according to Heidrick & Struggles. 

Women in the workforce: Indian women’s participation in the workforce is low among peer countries, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In fact, while India is ranked 87th (out of 144 countries) on the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Gender Gap Index, it is ranked 135th for labor force participation. In India’s rural areas, the labor participation rate of women is only 32 percent. Moreover, most women work in agriculture. 

Among those women who work in the corporate sector, relatively few hold leadership roles. Although female representation on corporate boards has increased, and is actually mandated by law, fewer than 9 percent of board members are women. 

Working in India 

Hiring of foreign workers in India has slowed recently as employers seek local candidates. Indian companies, both large and medium-sized, will hire foreign workers if the cost of hiring them is the same as for locals. Most of the hiring of foreign workers is done at the senior levels by multinational companies. In fact, about 29 percent of surveyed companies reported having foreign workers in more than 30 percent of their top-level positions. Most of these leadership positions are filled by people with lengthy experience in the region and an understanding of the local market. For those already in India, finding work can be difficult, and salaries are far below those in the West. 

Talent Shortages

Lack of skills is a common reason for vacancies in India. In fact, 48 percent of employers in India are having difficulty finding the right talent. This is above the global average of 40 percent, according to ManpowerGroup. 

The eight positions that are hardest to fill in India are: 

  • IT personnel
  • Accounting and finance staff
  • Project managers
  • Sales managers
  • Customer service/support representatives
  • Technicians
  • Quality controllers
  • Purchasing/procurement staff

Leaders Needed

India continues to suffer from a leadership gap. While skilled managers are numerous, entrepreneurial leaders with an international mindset are in short supply. It is difficult to find leaders to manage large corporations, which requires broad-thinking senior managers, general managers and operational managers, according to global executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles. 

In addition to tenacity, flexibility and openness, leaders need the ability to:

  • Manage multiple reporting lines
  • Operate in a ‘culturally neutral’ fashion
  • Create and drive strategy 

Skills in Demand 

  • SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics & The Cloud) skills
  • Digital marketing
  • Big data
  • Product specialists
  • Information technology 

General Skills 

In addition to expertise in the field, employers in India are seeking candidates with: 

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Learning agility
  • Integrity and values
  • Communication skills

Growth by Industry 


Year-over-Year Growth





Government and defense


Banking and financial services


Health care, biotechnology, life sciences and pharmaceuticals


IT, hardware, software




Source: Monster India

Job Growth by City 


Job Growth







Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR)










Source: Monster India 

General Salary Trends 

Salaries in India are low. The minimum wage is about 5 USD per day for unskilled non-agricultural workers.

Moreover, a significant gender pay gap exists, with the median hourly salary of 288 INR for men versus 207 INR for women. Foreign nationals fare far better than locals, however. The gross pay package for foreign workers in India averages more than 250,000 USD per year, according to consultancy firm ECA International. Overall, employees in India will see salary increases averaging 10 percent this year, the same as last year, according to global advisory Willis Towers Watson. 


India is a youthful country with a growing middle class and increasing salaries. Even though economic growth has slowed, the country still has more to offer jobseekers than most Southeast Asia countries. Its challenges, including poverty, infrastructure and skills shortages, still exist, though India’s positive attributes continue to help the country move forward.  


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