Few employers ready to offer more benefits to workers: survey

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Mumbai, Nov 15 (UNI) Despite the country's fast-growing economy, Indian employers are not maximising the potential of benefits to fulfil business objectives and generally offer few benefits to employees besides life and health, according to a just-released survey from MetLife.

That's in spite of the employees' high level of financial concern about providing for their families in case of illness, disability or death, and their expressed desire to buy benefits at work even if they have to pay all of the cost themselves. With the skilled Indian workforce becoming increasingly aware of international best practices at the workplace, Indian employers must soon address the growing need for workplace benefits, it said.

The inaugural MetLife Study of International Employee Benefits Trends surveyed employers and employees in four countries such as India, Mexico, Australia and the UK that represent mature and emerging economies and differing workplace environments. MetLife has conducted an annual Employee Benefits Trends Study in the US since 2001.

The international study reveals a disconnect between what benefits Indian employees say they need or want and the benefits the Indian employers are prepared to offer now or in the future. About one-third of Indian companies that currently offer no benefits, think they will offer benefits, and more specifically, 35 per cent indicated they would offer retirement benefits within the next three years. All the Indian employers indicated that they wish to provide benefits with an objective to control employee health and welfare benefits costs and increase employee productivity. And they cited retaining of skilled workers as the least important objective in offering employee benefits.

In contrast, many Indian workers are so interested in employee benefits at work that they are willing to pay the full cost themselves, with 51 per cent (who don't own products through the workplace) interested in purchasing term life while 48 pc in retirement planning products. Yet, workers generally own only one product at work, versus 6.9 products for employees in the US, and 1.5 for their Mexican counterparts. The reason, the majority (72 pc) of Indian workers say, is because their employers do not offer benefits.

With rapid economic expansion and the growth of multinational companies in India, competition for offering benefit programmes to the limited pool of highly skilled and better educated workers is increasing, said William J Toppeta, president of MetLife International.

''With a variety of world-class companies operating extensively in India, workers are now more aware of how workplace benefits can help meet their health, protection and retirement needs. Companies that develop benefit programmes highly prized by employees will have more leverage in attracting and retaining the best and brightest in an increasingly competitive marketplace,'' Mr Toppeta said.

The study has found, however, that in the larger cities in India, employers have begun using benefits as a strategic tool. While India's large cities attract more multinationals with their more generous benefit programmes, of possible greater significance is that big cities are home to more information technology, biotechnology and manufacturing companies, which often have difficulty finding skilled workers to fill their more specialised positions. These employers have greater incentive to offer competitive benefit programmes in order to attract and retain talent.

''From the survey, we found that there is no single over-riding reason that employers are not offering benefits to their employees in India,'' said Rajesh Relan, managing director of MetLife India Insurance Company Private Limited.

And as Indian employees become more aware of their health, protection and retirement needs, they will increasingly demand workplace benefits that their counterparts in other emerging and developed markets enjoy. Therefore, educating employers about the value of employee benefits can help to change the employer mindset to see what they could gain from offering benefits to the employees, he added.

UNI

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