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

Review of LabourSubscribe to Review of Labour

Unorganised Sector Workforce in India

India's workforce comprises nearly 92 per cent in the unorganised segment, with the entire farm sector falling under the informal category, while only one-fifth of the non-farm workers are found in the organised segment. Estimates suggest that in the non-farm sectors, as we move up the income ladder, the share of the informal sector gradually declines. However, as far as the agricultural sector is concerned, irrespective of economic class, the share of the unorganised workforce remains flat. Further analysis reveals that the coverage of social security schemes has been extremely sparse among the economically and socially vulnerable sections. The pro-rich, pro-capital policy of the present regime is reflected in the recent downward revision of the interest rate to the subscribers of provident fund. Further, the move towards defined contributory schemes away from defined benefit schemes of pension funds is fraught with danger. Therefore, we argue that given the poor affordability and lack of an institutional mechanism, any design of social security that relies heavily on a contributory basis is bound to fail dismally.

Labour Market Mobility of Low Income Households

According to the "over-urbanisation" thesis, migrants move into the urban areas in search of jobs, and in the face of limited employment opportunities in the high productivity industrial sector, they continue to work in low productivity activities. Urban poverty here is a spillover of rural poverty. But why do migrants not return to the rural areas if they continue to be engaged in low productivity activities? The reason could be that the informal sector offers them a better source of livelihood compared to rural avenues. This argument prompts us to pose a number of questions from an empirical standpoint. Based on primary surveys of slum dwellers in Delhi, the author examines if workers managed to experience a change in their occupation, over time. Even when the broad occupation categories remain the same, does the nature of employment change and do income levels rise? If so, what role do networks play in helping them access better paying jobs. The findings tend to support upward mobility in a limited sense though.

Contract Labour in Karnataka

In order to effectively compete in a global market the industrial sector demands flexibility. To circumvent rigidities imposed by labour laws, the new form of employment that is being created in the economy is largely contractual. Based on a field survey, this paper looks at the status of contract labour in the state of Karnataka. The study finds that while a number of large firms pay wages above the minimum wage fixed by the state and support an increase in the minimum wage levels, a considerable number of small firms exploit the contract workers in various ways, including through non-payment of minimum wages. The study finds an urgent need to improve the social security network and supervisory mechanism for contract labour in the state.

Organising Call Centre Agents: Emerging Issues

Organisations in the information technology enabled services sector have been very successful in using exclusivist and inclusivist strategies to keep unions at bay. These strategies have reinforced the notion of culturalism that aims at winning the "hearts and minds" of employees, by managing what they think and feel, and not just how they behave. The objective is to illustrate how these management strategies play out in call centres in India. The article is based on interviews carried out with call centre employees in Bangalore.

Informality, Gender and Poverty

This paper seeks to focus attention on the challenge of decent work for the working poor in the informal economy. The findings presented here are based on recent analyses of national data in a cross-section of developing countries. The data illustrate the multi-segmented structure of the labour force - both formal and informal - and the average earnings and poverty risk associated with working in the different segments. Special attention is paid to the differential location of the working poor, both women and men, in multi-segmented labour markets. The paper argues that there is a need to reorient economic policies to promote more and better employment in order to reduce poverty; improve national employment statistics to capture all forms of informal employment; rethink economic models of labour markets to incorporate self-employment and all forms of waged labour; and increase the representative voice of workers - especially informal workers, both women and men - in the processes and institutions that determine economic policies and formulate the "rules of the (economic) game".

Street Hawkers and Public Space in Mumbai

Street hawking is generally considered as a "menace" or an "eyesore" that prevents the development of Mumbai as a world-class city. But this article explores the essential presence of hawkers in a city, which requires a critical understanding of the functioning of public space. The experiences of hawkers in Mumbai, as elsewhere in India, have taught them not to fear a regulatory state, but a predatory one, a state that constantly demands bribes and threatens demolition, against which a licence provides security.

Migration as a Livelihood Strategy

This paper, based on a sample study of female migrant workers in Tamil Nadu, highlights the trends, pattern and nature of female migration in Tamil Nadu; the push and pull factors of migration and finally the role of migration as a livelihood strategy. The major push factor was lack of employment opportunities in the place of origin caused by drought and the pull factor was a favourable employment situation in the destination areas. After migration there seems to be a sizeable improvement in self-employment and regular salaried jobs for women. But the concentration of women in the informal sector to the extent of 82 per cent is an indication of their disadvantaged position in the urban labour market. Weighing the gains and losses, the study concludes that migration has helped migrant households avoid hunger, starvation and death, though it has failed to improve the economic well-being of about 43 per cent of the families, particularly the female headed households. To alleviate poverty the government's attention should be directed towards combating population movement via rural development and also improving the living conditions of those who had already moved.

Labour Activism and Women in the Unorganised Sector

Wages and working conditions in Bangalore?s rapidly expanding garments export sector, employing a large number of women, remain completely unregulated. Governments and mainstream trade unions have been largely indifferent to this sector. A number of NGOs and new trade unions have now stepped into this vacuum. Their framework of activism focusses on developmentalism of a certain kind ? credit associations, slum or neighbourhood development, internationalising the issue of workers? rights ? rather than on confrontational struggles over wages and working conditions. This genre of activism is based on a broad understanding of the informal sector, where a large number are self-employed, as one in which the employer-employee or capital-labour relationship is opaque, if not absent. However, this understanding and activism may indeed be limited in a context where capital is internationalised and labour is recast, into contractual, casualised, and in this case, feminised, workforce.

Deregulation and Labour Policies in a Public Sector Firm

This paper aims to examine how ITI sought to respond to the challenges and threats posed by deregulation, and the impact these actions had on the employees. It concentrates on the initiatives pursued by the company in order to build a workforce and forge labour policies tailored more closely to the imperatives of competition, and evaluates how far these objectives were achieved. For in the management's own words, ITI needed to evolve from being a 'production agency of DoT' to a 'business company' - an evolution which called for it to embrace new strategic options as well as new ways of doing things, if it was to stand a chance of survival in the changed business environment. In the field of labour relations, these revised priorities would take two main directions: the implementation of a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS), and the tightening of disciplinary controls together with cutbacks in welfare benefits.

Social Reproduction of Third World Labour in the Era of Globalisation

In the changed circumstances since the 1970s, it has become increasingly apparent that the capitalist system is unable to provide for the reproduction of its own labour force. Analyses of the welfare state have pointed out the crucial role played by state policy in shaping the maintenance and reproduction choices of labour through social welfare programmes, income distribution policies, and substitute wage programmes. However, in developing countries where most of the labour falls outside the purview of state-mandated programmes, the crucial role of the family in maintaining and reproducing labour became evident in stark manner. Focusing on the actual processes of the social reproduction of labour, and the strategies of survival that engage them can yield a more nuanced understanding of the multiple dimensions of insecurity faced by contemporary labour in different historical contexts and the various strategies of protection they devise.

Migration, Vulnerability and Insecurity in New Industrial Labour Markets

With a case study of labour in a new industrial setting in Kothur, Andhra Pradesh, this paper seeks to address a number of questions: (1) From what context is labour migrating to Kothur? (2) What is the nature of employment opportunities in the new industrial labour market? (3) Why do the opportunities of employment and the nature of labour in Kothur represent a paradoxical trend contrary to conventional social mobility theories? (4) How can we analyse this paradox? (5) What do the new employment patterns and labour relations mean to the vulnerability of labour? (6) How does the new labour policy address these issues?

Street Vendors in Asia: A Review

This paper attempts to examine recent research done on street vendors in Asia with the aim of assessing the magnitude of street vending in different countries and the composition of the vendors. Further, it collates information on the extent of unionisation of the vendors and other organisations, such as non-government organisations (NGOs), self-help organisations (SHOs), advocacy groups, etc, that work for their welfare.

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