ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Livelihood Security of Home-based Beedi-rolling Workers in Uttar Pradesh

The livelihood security of households is a function of visible quantitative and invisible qualitative indicators, broadly based on private and public resources and institutional support. A survey of home-based women beedi-rolling workers (rural and urban) in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh indicated that they live on the margin of society and function at the bottom of the economy. This article advocates active state intervention to empower workers to assert their rights to ensure secure livelihoods.

Disguised employment exists when workers are employed intermittently on oral contracts between suppliers of inputs and producers of final output and when workers are not directly employed by the factory system but are home-based producers of output for the factory. These types of projects are mostly managed by contractors employed by the owners of factories. Contractors also occasionally remain invisible and operate through subcontractors who supply inputs to the home-based workers and get the final agreed-upon output from the workers. Home-based workers are thus removed from the input and output markets and are invisible in the production line of factory-based organisations. The existence of an output market benefits home-based workers by providing them jobs, but these workers are farthest from the consumer. Factory owners, or contractors who operate in their stead, are linked with the input market.

Home-based workers do wage-work within their homes and adjoining common spaces. They produce goods and services for an employer or a contractor with an arrangement whereby the work is carried out at a place of the worker’s choosing; the production space is generally the worker’s own home, where normally there is no direct supervision by employers or contractors (Schnieder 1990: 423). Domestic responsibilities compel women workers to choose work close to home. Home spaces facilitate the roles of women in productive and reproductive activities (Neetha 2014: 89). The sharp increase in the number of women home-based workers was not due to expanding employment opportunities, but due to the limited choice in occupational opportunities for women (Paul and Raju 2014: 10). Home-based work is at the bottom of the labour market and indicates the survival strategies of women in distress. It supplements the household’s income, especially in low-income families. It also saves travel time and costs and offers women the flexibility to perform their domestic responsibilities while contributing to the household income (National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector 2007: 71). Unaccounted work and underestimation hinder the identification and enumeration of women home-based workers. The reasons for the underestimation of women workers include invisibility in home-based work, a high non-response rate from women, and women having multiple jobs (Ratna and Unni 2003: 27). The unpaid work by women at home cannot be easily converted into a monetary equivalent. The distinction between what women should be paid for and what remains unpaid is often fuzzy. This leads to underestimation and unaccounted work performed by women.

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Updated On : 7th Apr, 2017

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