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The Social sector offers numerous career opportunities

For development to be sustainable, the social sector must contribute and work in tandem with the government. Sanchayan Bhattacharjee looks at different opportunities in this blooming sector

Opportunities in the social sector are often broadly generalised as financially unfeasible. After independence, Nehruvian socialism became the bedrock of India’s development plan. Although it had its benefits, organisations like the Planning Commission depended more on a handful of economic experts rather than ensuring that different government programmes percolated to the last person. Thus the social arena did not gather steam and develop as a sector that provides sustainable employment.

However, the situation is fast changing. “In the last 10-15 years, a more rights based development agenda has triggered a revival of the social sector,” said Ashwani Kumar, professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). Legislations like the Right To Information (RTI), Right To Education (RTE) ensure that social as well as economic benefits reach the end user. “Both the Central and State governments are recruiting a large number of students to implement various pension, food security, livelihood or midday meal programmes,” added Kumar.

In addition to opportunities from government agencies, the proliferation of Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) across the country has also contributed to a rise in opportunities in this sector. Faculty members from different colleges agree that there are at least two million NGOs in the country. “There is significant demand in this sector. Apart from relevant specialisations, non profit sector values soft skills like passion, dedication, team work and positive attitude,” says Pallavi Rao Chaturvedi, director, AISECT, a social enterprise. However, most of these organisations prefer to employ post graduates in a relevant or related field of work. “A few institutes like TISS and Azim Premji University offer courses that are conducive to a career in the social sector. Many NGOs even participate in the placement drive of these institutes,” says Sowmya Sivashankar, team leader, Talent Management team, Dasra, a philanthropy foundation.

While the social sector almost always promises direct intervention with regards to the kind of work, different government programmes and collaborations with the private sector has led to diversification of job profiles and better opportunities for growth. Depending on the type of organisation, a student at entry level can expect to be directly associated with skill development, livelihood and entrepreneurship development, rural banking and financial inclusion, managing channel of service delivery in various regions, content development and pedagogic approach for training etc. “The job profile could be that of a field level coordinator, business manager or project associate for projects at regional or state level,” says Chaturvedi and adds that depending on the performance, a student can assume a responsible and accountable role in a short span of time.

The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) division of a company is another fast growing employment avenue. “CSR opportunities are plentiful. We already have arrangements with major companies like Larsen and Toubro, Bharat Petroleum, etc., for campus placements,” says Niloferr Lokhandwala, job placement officer, Nirmala Niketan College of Home Science.

According to P Thiruvengadam, senior director, Deloitte India, most companies are looking at CSR seriously and not just to prevent legal ramifications. “Around a decade ago, most companies did not have separate Human Resource departments. CSR is at a similar juncture and fast evolving,” he says. “We generally look for students who have completed their post graduation in social sciences, management or economics.”

While the sector is booming with opportunities, in order for students to benefit, it is imperative for educational institutions to build a relationship with potential employers on a large scale. SNDT Women’s University has recently started an internship programme for such students but does not provide any placement assistance. “Most of our students prefer academics. However, we will now build on our internship programme to help students gain employment,”says Sujata Gokhale, head, department of Sociology, SNDT University.

Salaries in this sector may vary drastically. “A fresher may earn anything between Rs10,000 to Rs 30,000 per month. However, NGOs always face a dearth of good talent so a deserving person can expect relevant hikes on an ongoing basis,” says Sivashankar. According to Chaturvedi, in a mid scale social business, the entry level salary for management graduates could be in the range Rs 6 to 7 lakhs per annum. The figure could be much higher for experienced professionals. Thiruvengadam suggests that most MNCs offer their CSR executives starting salary of Rs 35000 per month.

The field experts however observe the social sector will not be able to match the corporate sector salaries anytime soon. Although it is definitely more organised than earlier and has better career prospects now, there is a scope for improvement. “Both market and state actors must make these jobs more durable by providing greater income incentives,” says Kumar. Ultimately, while the pay packet might be relatively thinner, experts concur that this sector holds the allure of quality work and job satisfaction.

Institutes offering courses in the social sector:

  • Tata Institute of Social Sciences
  • Nirmala Niketan College of Home Science
  • SNDT Women’s University

(Indicative list)