From security to uncertainty: many older people are returning to the labor market after Covid | India News

NEW DELHI: This is also a Covid effect. Pushed out of their comfort zone by a pandemic that has robbed them of their financial security, many people are returning to the labor market at the twilight of their lives or recently into retirement — whether through college tuition, applying for clerical assistant positions, or setting up a street vendor truck.
The reasons for striving for financial independence are as diverse as the income bracket. It could be someone whose son has lost their job, someone else whose savings have dwindled over the long months of lockdown, or an elderly person who may have seen a deserving child die of Covid and are being forced to die to support family again.
“Many older people don’t have the concept of tomorrow anymore and that creates a lot of uncertainty in people’s minds,” said Himanshu Rath, founder and chairman of the Agewell Foundation.
Since the pandemic, applications to the foundation’s job board, which offers job opportunities to older people, have skyrocketed.
“Before the pandemic, we received around 400 to 450 applications every month. In recent months, the numbers have risen to nearly 550. The number of telephone inquiries from new job seekers or from those who have already applied has increased from five to six calls a day to more than 10 calls a day. So there’s an increase of at least 30-35 percent,” Rath told PTI.
According to a recent survey by the Agewell Foundation, based on interactions with 5,000 older people, more than 61 percent of retirees (81.5 percent in the 60-75 age group) are looking for a job.
Among the job seekers is 79-year-old Gunn Shivdasani. It’s been almost 20 years since he retired from his job in the garment industry but the vicissitudes of lockdown have left him with no choice but to look for work.
“My son lost his job in this pandemic and now he is earning a lot less than before. I want to help him, so I’m thinking about going back to work,” Delhi-based Shivdasani told PTI.
He has a son, a daughter, a daughter-in-law and four grandchildren. Shvidsasani is ready for anything, but prefers to take lessons.
“I have good English skills and I can help the students. Any amount of money would actually help,” he said.
At 62, Sattar Khan is 17 years younger and in the same predicament. After retiring as an office assistant in a private company, he looked forward to spending time with his family.
But that shouldn’t be.
“I’ve worked all my life as an office assistant in a private company. When I retired I thought I would spend some quality time with my family, but now there are so many uncertainties that I want to make money. It should be enough for my needs as I am in no way dependent on my sons,” said Khan, who also lives in Delhi.
His wife passed away a few years ago and even 15,000 rupees a month would be enough, he said.
Alongside the uncertainty that comes from the lockdown, there is also the fear of what will happen if there is another one.
“They want to earn as much and as quickly as possible and to get out of being dependent on their children… There was also a lot of friction between the families during the pandemic, which again made the elderly very insecure,” said Rath.
Most look for jobs in the informal sector as large companies and industries have no place for older people.
Elderly people also need to be digitally trained so they can participate in the mainstream and lead more comfortable and dignified lives in today’s internet-dominated world, Rath said.
About 90 percent of elders in India have to work to survive, added Anupama Datta, head of policy research and development at HelpAge India.
Families, including elders, are returning to the Delhi-NCR region from their cities of Bihar, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh in search of work as the pandemic subsides.
“Most elders from the unorganized sector are left with no choice but to continue working in their later years. Covid has hit her the hardest. In addition to their own vulnerability to the virus, many have lost the livelihoods or working children they depended on.” She said.
“We are now seeing many elders taking to the streets again and opening their Redhi Patri (street vendors or street vendors) shops on the side of the road. The extreme weather conditions and economic slowdown are making conditions harsh and unbearable for them,” she added.
Several recruitment platforms contacted by PTI also said they were seeing an increase in applications from older people.
Industry surveys show that over 55-60 percent of individuals have expressed an interest in continuing to work after retirement in order to remain financially independent and stay productive, said Sanjay Shetty, director of international recruitment agency Randstad India.
Seniors in the country have started looking for freelance jobs, and work-from-home opportunities have increased significantly over the past two years, he said.
There is a growing trend for seniors to come back or want to continue after retirement, agreed Mahesh Bhatt, chief business officer of staffing firm TeamLease Services.
“In fact, many of them want to be part of the staff pool because it offers them a variety of jobs and flexible working hours. Manufacturing and industrials are two of the key sectors where the trend is significant. From a profile perspective, most of them are employed in administration, procurement, legal and compliance and security oversight,” he said.
According to Bhatt, the trend is not limited to the private sector. The government is also warming up. It has launched an exclusive virtual employment agency connecting seniors with companies and industry associations.
“In certain instances, families or elderly couples have had to rearrange and reconsider their funding source due to the unprecedented global event (the Covid pandemic),” added Raj Das, global co-founder and CEO of online recruitment platform Hirect India.

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