Here are top 5 reasons why layoff in India can be especially hard

Hiring and firing are a common business practice in the west. The typical American spends about 4.2 years in a job (link) and sometimes leaves for better opportunity and at other times may be fired or laid off. The phenomena was glorified by reality TV shows like The Apprentice with Donald Trump’s punchline “You’re Fired”   !

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Even considering the fact that layoffs are a common business practice in the west, the impact of a job loss is hard on individuals. Many psychologists and researchers classify “Job Loss” among the top 5 stressors for people, ranked with the “Death of a loved one,” Divorce, and Major Illness!

Let us switch to layoffs in India, more specifically layoffs in Indian IT which is in the news a lot. The news of layoffs come at a time of additional scrutiny on employment-visas in the US, UK, Australia and elsewhere, and a general slowdown in the Indian IT (my earlier response to a question).

For those laid off involuntarily, it may feel like the music stopped during a game of  musical chairs and one is left standing.

Here are top 5 reasons why layoff in India can be especially hard

  1. Social stigma: The middle-class in India attaches a lot of ‘status’ to what one does for a living. Among the first questions one gets asked during introductions include “where do you work?” (or “Where does your husband work?”). “He used to work for Infosys and just got laid-off” doesn’t cut it.  
  2. Identity and self-worth: Typical middle-class kids are conditioned to work hard to succeed. When one is laid-off due to factors beyond one’s control (‘business reasons’) one begins to question one’s basic values. 
  3. Pressure from relatives: Those from an earlier generation – parents, uncles and relatives of IT workers – equate ‘layoff’ to ‘firing.’ Right after layoff, they may begin to gossip “Ramesh was fired by Wipro. I though he was doing well there. What did he do wrong?” 
  4. Financial challenges : Many IT workers over-leveraged their finances by “Investing” in expensive, upscale apartments, houses, cars and white-goods with large EMIs and credit card payments. Sudden stoppage of a paycheck can certainly be hard. 
  5. Other practical challenges:  Many of those who are being laid-off are single and in their twenties and early thirties. Until recently, an ‘IT groom’ with a nice paycheck was a prime-catch in the matrimonial market. All the news of doom-and-gloom in IT sector is perhaps making families with eligible brides and grooms re-think alliances from those in IT sector.


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