Encountering Precarity in India’s New Services: Experiences of Work, Employment and Professional Mobility amongst Lower-Middle Class Youth in Pune’s Domestic-BPOs

Authors: ADITYA RAY*, Queen Mary University of London
Topics: Asia, Economic Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Global South, Labor, Economic Geography, Development Geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Bonaparte, Marriott, River Tower Elevators, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The discussion around India’s ‘domestic new-services economy’ has recently gained significant traction in policy discourses, as it continues to proliferate across the country's different urban-regional centres. Today, entry-level positions in domestic-facing new services sectors such as ITeS-BPO, Retail and Hospitality have significantly lowered barriers-to-entry and drawn to themselves a growing number of relatively educated lower-middle class youth from across ‘Tier-2 and Tier-3’ cities and towns. Employers in these ‘modern’ sectors promise formal employment and rapid social mobility to such youth, even though the bulk of these new opportunities are short-term and transient to begin with. Given the rapidly expanding reach and scope of such jobs, there is a growing need to explore in-depth the patterns of inclusion, exclusion and mobility that those employed in them experience. In this paper, I focus on educated lower-middle class youth employed in domestic-facing ITES-BPO centres in a ‘second-tier’ India city of Pune. Drawing on over 15 months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2015 and 2017; I examine employees’ experiences of work and employment, incorporating (their) experiences of training and mobility. Based on the findings, I argue that even though contemporary processes of neoliberal economic development in cities of the global South are often disorderly and frequently re-process older inequalities; novel spatial strategies of local actors occasionally emerge in place to circumvent some of the ‘structural’ problems. In so doing, I interrogate existing frames of geographical analysis that operate downwards from the inter-national scale, failing to integrate situated spatiality of neoliberal-development and its localized manifestations.

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