Informalization of Labour : Recent Trends in India's Urban Economy

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 5:45 PM
Room: 415
Oral Presentation
Vandana PALSANE , Department of Sociology, College Arts & Commerce for Women, PUNE, India
Informalization of labour : Recent trends in India’s Urban Economy

Urban way of life is generally considered to be associated with industrial production. Reality in most third world cities, however, indicates otherwise. Only half and sometimes less of urban population finds employment in factories or similar organizations. Rest all are engaged in ‘informal’ economic activities which are casual, unskilled, with no fixed working hours, low income, with nature of work  largely fluctuating and seasonal. Several studies and reports have come out in last twenty years, which depict the miserable working conditions of India’s informal sector workers.

While workers in the informal sector contribute a considerable amount of output to the country’s GDP, the conditions under which they labour are usually deplorable. Although precise data is not available, we can safely say that nearly all workers in the informal sector lack any form of social security.  India has a labour force of nearly 400 million persons, about 13 percent of the entire world’s labour force. More than 70 percent of the nonagricultural labour force is in informal employment. If we include agriculture into this, it will be over 90 percent. Work in the informal sector is so common today that it is almost a norm.

Today, due to policies of globalization, facilitated by advances in technology, labour is losing its formal and organized character. Workers are divided into two groups, who are employed and who are in the reserve army of labour, willing to do anything to obtain employment. Large number of workers in India, who form this reserve army, miserably wander to and fro between cities, town and villages, living in different phases of employability in seasonal cycles.

This paper attempts to understand, based on available literature, trends of informalization in the fast changing employment scenario in Indian urban economy.