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Household Enterprises


Since my article “Reflections on Kalyan Sanyal’s Rethinking Capitalist Development” (EPW, 26 May 2018) was published, I have had access to estimates from an alternative set of data that may throw some additional light on the issue of “permanent exclusion” of self-employed workers in the informal sector in India.

These estimates are from the nationally representative India Human Development Survey (IHDS), which is one of the very few national surveys with panel data, pursuing the same household between 2004–05 and 2011–12. (I am grateful to Survi Kesar who made these estimates for me.)

To get estimates for the self-employed, I confine myself to what the IHDS calls own account enterprise (OAE) households. These households are defined as those that derive their primary income from self-employed businesses, employing only family labour. (This definition leaves out those family enterprises which employ some hired labour.)

The following table shows the proportion of OAE households with a larger than 10% rise in per capita income or consumption—at 2005 prices between the two years—for India, and also for the rural and urban sectors separately. In general, the majority of such self-employed households had a significant rise in real income or consumption per capita between 2004–05 and 2011–12. At least, these households do not seem to have been “permanently excluded.” The picture is roughly similar if one takes rural and urban India separately, or even at the level of the major states (not included in the table, primarily because the sample sizes for OAE households in some states are not large, which could possibly detract from the reliability of some statewise estimates).

From these estimates, it is, of course, not possible to disentangle how much of this significant upward mobility of these households is due to transient factors and due to more structural factors.

Pranab Bardhan

California, United States

Updated On : 22nd Jun, 2018


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