The Rhetoric and Realities of Labor Market Reforms
15 Pages Posted: 17 May 2021
Date Written: April 16, 2021
The recent reforms to labor laws in India have created a very polarized debate among key stakeholders and policy analysts. The government’s position is that the myriad labor laws in India create complexity and poor employer compliance. Hence the need for simplification. Moreover, simplification of labor laws would facilitate the ease of doing business and consequently attract private domestic and foreign capital into India. This capital inflow will in turn boost employment in the country. Thus, labor law reforms become a part of wider stimulus package for economic revival. Trade unions on the other hand have opposed labor law reforms as they fear it erodes employment security, the right to collective representation and ability to undertake legal strikes. This raises two fundamental questions. First, how unique are the labor law reforms in India or have other countries embarked on similar pathways to revive their economies? Second, what has been the economic impact and labor market outcomes of such reforms in countries where governments have introduced labor law reforms? In addition to these questions, there is an ideological issue that needs addressing at the outset. Do only ‘right-wing’ political parties de-regulate labor markets? In this article, I wish to contextualize labor market reforms in India in an international perspective which is often missing in the rather insular and inward-looking debate on labor reforms in India.
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