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Understanding the unorganised sector

By Kiran Moghe

Almost 400 million people - more than 85% of the working population in India - work in the unorganised sector. Of these, at least 120 million are women. The recent Arjun Sengupta Committee report is a stark reminder of the huge size and poor conditions in this sector. A subsequent draft Bill to provide security to workers, which bypasses regulatory measures and budgetary provisions, has generated intense debate


Uncovering women's work

By Jayati Ghosh

A substantial amount of women's time is devoted to unpaid labour. Yet, much of women's work is invisible. The productive contribution of household maintenance, provisioning and reproduction is ignored. As a result, inadequate attention is paid to the conditions of women's work and its economic value


A lawless sector

By Susan Abraham

With the growing fragmentation of the labour force in India, employment without security has become the norm. Even as organised sector workers struggle to use whatever is left of labour laws and social security schemes, workers in the unorganised sector have very little legal protection in terms of job security, wages, or working conditions. As more and more women are forced to take up work in this sector, the real challenge is to ensure that the laws and schemes that exist (on paper) for the diminishing numbers of workers in the organised sector are extended to the vast majority of workers in the unorganised sector


It's been a hard day's night

By P Sainath

In a process of reverse migration, hundreds of women in Maharashtra's Gondia district travel from small towns to the villages, staying away from home for 20 hours a day, to earn a daily wage of around Rs 30. The beedi industry has closed down in their hometowns and there are no jobs


'We pay for the work with our dignity'

By Aparna Pallavi

Women of the Kol community on the MP-UP border carry 30 kg of wood every day across several kilometres and return home with Rs 15. Others survive by working long crushing hours in stone quarries or on farms for meagre wages. The women are sexually exploited by landowners, upper caste groups, and government officials. "If we put up a resistance," one woman says, "we will starve to death"


Carriers of the dregs of humanity

By Freny Manecksha

Scavenging, or lifting human excreta, is the only work available to many women of the Halalkhor and Dom communities of Mau in Uttar Pradesh. They occupy the lowest rung amongst people who must work at the very bottom of a caste-determined occupational order. They are exposed to health risks, education for their children is almost unheard of, the communities are socially isolated, and people have few chances of finding other work


Disquiet in Gudalur valley

By Mari Marcel Thekaekara

Change is rushing into the adivasi communities of the Gudalur valley of Tamil Nadu's Nilgiris district. The imposition of land deeds, the arrest of adivasis if they collect forest produce, their dependence on work on tea and coffee plantations and 'ecotourism' are introducing a new gender divide and affecting women's work


The domestic workers of silicon city

By Kathyayini Chamaraj

The struggle of domestic workers in Karnataka for decent wages and work conditions is two decades old. But even at the prescribed minimum wage, the average domestic worker's wages are insufficient even to cover the food needs of the average family, let alone other needs, forcing women and girls to work seven days a week in multiple homes


On a slim scaffolding

By Rakesh Ganguli

Standards laid down for women labourers under the Factories Act, like handling limits of 20 kg, rarely apply to construction workers. All norms remain negotiable in the construction industry and labourers and their organisations must give in to the demands of contractors and builders. In such conditions, women workers are especially vulnerable



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