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

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The Vulnerable Majority

India’s informal sector workers are growing in numbers and precariousness.

The World Employment and Social Outlook—Trends 2016 report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), in its predictions on global vulnerable employment, states that the number of jobless in India will increase from 17.7 million in 2016 to 18 million by 2018 even though its employment rate is expected to go down from 3.5% to 3.4% in 2017. The ILO’s definition of “vulnerable employment” covers the own-account workers and unpaid family workers more likely to lack decent working conditions, proper social security and any form of effective representation through unions or similar organisations. The report predicts “only marginal improvements” in the share of workers in vulnerable employment all over the world with the rate of such employment expected to fall by less than 0.2 percentage points per year over the next two years. This form of employment is expected to remain above 42% of the total employment in 2017 and accounts for 1.4 billion people all over the world. In emerging countries (India is classified as such by the ILO), one in two workers fit this definition while in developing countries it is four out of five workers. The two regions most affected by vulnerable employment are Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa with the number of such workers projected to grow globally by 11 million every year.

The ILO’s statistics about India are not unexpected. The large majority of India’s workers, 92% of them, are in the informal sector. The slowdown in agriculture has pushed landless labourers and small farmers also into this sector, notably into construction. More alarmingly, even the new jobs being created in the formal sector are informal in nature due to the lack of employment benefits and social security. Barely regulated by the government, this sector nevertheless makes a significant contribution to the economy quite apart from providing employment to people the state cannot help. It stands to reason, therefore, that this would be the section of workers mostly found in manufacturing, construction, transportation, storage and wholesale and retail trade. It is also a known fact that women tend to be overwhelmingly employed in this sector, subjected to even greater precariousness than their male counterparts, facing especially gender disparity in wages and sexual harassment at the workplace.

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Updated On : 28th Aug, 2017

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