As fears surface in India over large-scale job cuts due to an economic slowdown, Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee on Friday said interests of the country's labour force will be protected even if it meant some slight cuts in emoluments.
"The government has been conscious of the magnitude of this still-deepening crisis and has been taking steps to mitigate its impact on Indian society," Mukherjee told a national labour conference at the Ashok Hotel in New Delhi.
"Jobs must be protected even if it means some reduction in compensation," said the foreign minister, who has been given temporary charge of finance since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who holds the portfolio, is recovering after a heart surgery.
His comments come against the backdrop of Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes informing parliament on Wednesday of large-scale job losses in sectors like mining, textiles, gems and jewellery, automobiles and IT.
Fernandes had said the government had not undertaken any exhaustive study on layoffs due to the economic slowdown, but that the Labour Bureau in Chandigarh had conducted a study on the job situation in these sectors.
"According to this study, job loss of half a million persons has been found and average earnings have declined by 3.45 per cent during October-December, 2008," Fernandes had told the upper house of parliament.
Mukherjee told the labour conference that his government will also oppose any form protectionism by rich nations, while assuring that further pump priming of the economy would be undertaken if the situation so demanded.
"We are witnessing signs of protectionism in the world's biggest economy," he said, adding: "We will need to argue against this trend at the international fora."
Speaking to reporters later, he said that the government will not shy away from giving a further stimulus to the economy. "Adequate resources will be provided," he said, but did not go into the specifics of the measures planned.