The Impact of Gender on Informal Workers' Organizing—the Case of India

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 11:00
Location: Hörsaal 31 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Rina AGARWALA, Sociology, Johns Hopkins University, MD, USA
Drawing from interviews on informal workers’ organizations in India, this paper examines the impact of gender on informal workers’ strategies, targets, repertoires and organization forms.  The paper will also examine the potential impact of gender on organization impact.  The paper is based on a comparative examination across two industries: domestic work and construction.  In India (as elsewhere), domestic work is predominantly comprised of women and attends to “reproductive” tasks performed in the often hidden spaces of the household.  As a result, domestic work is traditionally associated with “feminine” labor.  Construction in India (unlike in many places) is dominated by men across all skill levels, but includes women at the lowest skill level.  This is because the vast majority of construction labor in India is based on migrant family labor.  Therefore, construction in India provides a useful lens into the impact of women and men’s labor in the “productive” sphere, operating in the public spaces of streets and unfinished construction sites.  This unique gender characteristic of Indian construction labor provides a useful point of comparison both within India (relative to domestic work), but also across countries (where the construction sector is primarily male).  The paper will examine how the gender composition of the workers in each industry affect the membership, leadership, and demands of organizations within each industry.