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

A+| A| A-

Analysing Core Indicators of Decent Work for the Indian Fisheries Sector

Do Richer States Perform Better?

The International Labour Organization included the concept of decent work in the Sustainable Development Goals to address concerns about workplace conditions, especially in developing countries. Among the different sectors of any developing economy, agriculture and allied activities have lagged the most in terms of decent work. This paper examines decent work in the fisheries sector in India. Using the National Sample Survey Office data from the Employment and Unemployment Survey of India, the paper arrives at a multidimensional decent work index. The paper finds that labourers belonging to the richer states rank lower in terms of decent work compared to the relatively poorer states, indicating higher inequality in the former regions. It also finds that per capita incomes are well below the poverty line for more than 40% of workers in fisheries.


The authors would like to thank the Norwegian Research Council and the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs for their support in conducting this research. They also thank International Center for Development and Decent Work, Kassel University, Germany, for providing support to present an earlier version of this paper at the International Labour Organization, Geneva. The support of the Reserve Bank of India and Indian Council of Social Science Research to the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bengaluru, is gratefully acknowledged. The authors are also thankful to the anonymous referees for their valuable comments. The fisheries sector is a major source of income and employment, especially for people living in coastal areas in India (MOSPI 2011). However, this sector was badly affected by the pandemic and the resulting lockdowns in 2020, which caused a substantial loss of fishing days and, subsequently, a livelihood crisis among fishery workers. The aquaculture sector, which employs migrant labour, also faced severe distress during the pandemic.

Fish constitutes a major dietary supplement in several cuisines and is an important source of protein (Giuliani et al 2004). Due to the rapid expansion of global populations, the demand for primary sources of food from agriculture and fishing is increasing rapidly. This has led to increased fishing efforts1 (Anticamara et al 2011) that have further led to overfishing (Mansfield 2011). Overfishing has resulted in depleted supply close to the shoreline (Stobutzki et al 2006), and the same effort now yields lesser output than before (Costello 2017). This has led to increased fishing in deeper waters using large trawlers and other expensive equipment, which subsistence farmers with artisanal boats are often unable to afford. Owing to their inability to meet the requisite high capital investments of the industrialised fishing model, subsistence fishers are compelled to abandon their traditional production methods and seek employment on mechanised trawlers (Rajeev and Bhandarkar 2019). After their shift to capitalistic employment from artisanal production, they only derive a share of the output (value added), which is often small, and have reduced bargaining power. Competition among fishing units also leads to cost-cutting, which result in more hazardous and less satisfactory working conditions for fishers, in addition to potentially lower remuneration (Rajeev and Bhandarkar 2019).

Aquaculture is an emerging, alternative source of fish supply that provides employment to the rural workforce. Within this sector, shrimp culture is an important export-oriented industry (PIB 2017). Here, technology implementation and large-scale production require the use of hired labour, whose working conditions are also often not satisfactory.

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here


To gain instant access to this article (download).

INR 236

(Readers in India)

$ 12

(Readers outside India)

Published On : 17th Jan, 2024

Support Us

Your Support will ensure EPW’s financial viability and sustainability.

The EPW produces independent and public-spirited scholarship and analyses of contemporary affairs every week. EPW is one of the few publications that keep alive the spirit of intellectual inquiry in the Indian media.

Often described as a publication with a “social conscience,” EPW has never shied away from taking strong editorial positions. Our publication is free from political pressure, or commercial interests. Our editorial independence is our pride.

We rely on your support to continue the endeavour of highlighting the challenges faced by the disadvantaged, writings from the margins, and scholarship on the most pertinent issues that concern contemporary Indian society.

Every contribution is valuable for our future.