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Friday, April 19, 2024, 6:47 pm

Friday, April 19, 2024, 6:47 pm

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Have jobs and growth passed Mumbai by?

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Mumbai is often associated with riches, effort, and entrepreneurship, with the city attracting wealth producers, according to local mythology and folklore. For centuries, this appeared to be true. Migrants flocked to the city in search of employment, frequently overlooking the low quality of living as a cost of sending money back home. Some came as prostitutes, and their names appeared on lists of India’s and the world’s wealthiest individuals. This solidified Mumbai’s reputation as a place where the rags-to-riches narrative comes true. Gillian Tindall’s book, The City of Gold, chronicles the history of Bombay.

From the colonial era to the 1980s, the city remained a hub for manufacturing, finance, banking, trade, software, and creative industries, including Hindi film and television. Following liberalisation in 1991, business leaders and industry groups collaborated with the state government to establish Mumbai as a financial and corporate hub for Southeast Asia, competing with Singapore and Shanghai.

The Vision Plan for Mumbai, created by one of the top four worldwide consulting firms, envisioned significant growth and job opportunities at the time. Mumbai’s “Singaporisation” and “Shanghaisation” became jokes, yet the city nonetheless grew economically, although at the expense of its natural environment, and provided jobs for millions. ‘The City of Gold’ appeared safe until today. Can Mumbai’s economic development and employment possibilities be taken for granted? Have the Maharashtra government and Mumbai’s leaders already missed the bus for the coming decades? The Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City) near Ahmedabad has gained popularity among corporates and enterprises, particularly in the international finance and trade sectors, prompting urgent attention to these problems.

“In the last six months, about eight of the 10 biggest Indian asset managers by assets have either relocated their business, or set up new funds or filed for permits to move to GIFT City, according to executives at these funds,” according to a recent story from Reuters.
The union government has promoted GIFT City as a hub for global capital and financial services, offering tax breaks and incentives similar to Singapore or Dubai to attract businesses and corporates.  According to government estimates, the new city has around 25,000 employment and is expected to grow to 60,000 to a lakh this year. India’s International Financial Services Centres Authority (IFSCA) is collaborating with central and state governments to lure firms to GIFT City. Shipping, a long-standing trade in Mumbai, is shifting to the new city. The diamond market in Mumbai’s old Mumbai and Bandra Kurla Complex relocated to Surat’s Diamond Research and Mercantile City, an 800-hectare commercial zone similar to GIFT City, in December of last year, affecting thousands of workers and traders.

The Surat Diamond Bourse debuted in 2010 with hundreds of offices in high-rise skyscrapers, but the relocation from Mumbai has gained steam in the previous year or two. Reports indicate that Mumbai-based diamond merchants operate around one-third of the entities in the SDB. The SDB provides incentives to promote the relocation from Mumbai. Former MP Milind Deora, who defected from Congress to Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena, was concerned about this. He emphasised the importance of Mumbai’s gem and jewellery business in terms of employment and tax income, stating that losing this industry to Gujarat would be terrible. He may think otherwise today.

Maharashtra and Mumbai leaders are confident in the city’s ability to attract international investment and corporate headquarters. However, they refuse to answer the issue of how long. Greenfield cities like GIFT City and existing ones in the south are attracting firms away from Mumbai, offering tax benefits and improved quality of life for employees and workers. It would be folly to discount these moves. If the Maharashtra government and Mumbai officials are serious about their vision for the city, they should act immediately.

This is crucial for Mumbai’s status as a top commercial and commerce hub, as well as its job opportunities. According to a recent report by the International Labour Organisation and Institute for Human Development, the number of educated jobless in India has increased, particularly in cities, with youth accounting for 83% of the overall unemployed population.
“This indicates that the problem of unemployment in India has become increasingly concentrated among the youth, especially the educated ones in urban areas,” concluded the research.

The research found that a third of respondents were self-employed, with barely one in every four having a formal job and more working casually.
Although city-specific data is difficult to get, particularly recent information, it’s safe to assume this also applies to Mumbai. Gig labour is a popular informal job option in the city, but studies indicate that it does not provide adequate compensation or pleasure for those who engage in it.
Additionally, the gig economy relies on established firms and sectors. Maharashtra’s previous Congress-led administrations were overconfident in Mumbai’s dominance, whereas the current BJP-led or Shinde-led governments have welcomed capital flight to adjacent states and cities. According to reports, the city has the highest concentration of millionaires in Asia. According to a secret ranking of the world’s wealthiest individuals, Mumbai now has 92 billionaires, surpassing Beijing. According to Hurun’s ranking, Mumbai has the third-highest number of billionaires globally, after only New York (119) and London (97).

The current situation in Mumbai, a city famed for its working class, aspiring entrepreneurs, and innovative firms, does not bode well for its future. The future of Mumbai’s economy, labour market, and jobs are important concerns to consider.

Abhishek Verma






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