The unorganised sector, covers most of the rural labour and a substantial part of urban labour. lt includes activities carried out by small and family enterprises, partly or wholly with family labour. In this sector wage-paid labour is largely non-unionised due to casual and seasonal nature of employment and scattered location of enterprises. This sector is marked by low incomes, unstable and irregular employment, and lack of protection either from legislation or trade unions. The unorganised sector uses mainly labour intensive and indigenous technology.
The workers in unorganised sector, are so scattered that the implementation of the Legislation is very inadequate and ineffective. There are hardly any unions in this sector to act as watch-dogs. But the contributions made by the unorganised sector to the national income, is very substantial as compared to that of the organised sector. It adds more than 60% to the national income while the contribution of the organised sector is almost half of that depending on the industry.
“You can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women”. Jawaharlal Nehru. When Amartya Sen had taken up the issue of women’s welfare, he was accused in India of voicing “foreign concern”. He was told, Indian women don’t think like that about equality. But he argued saying that if they don’t think like that they should be given an opportunity to think like that. The International Labour Organisation says that women represent: i) 50% of the population ii) 30% of the labour force iii) Perform 60% of all working hours iv) Receive 10% of the world’s income v) Own less than 1% of the world’s property
Women’s economic participation can be mentioned in the field of production of goods and services accounted in the national income statistics. However, female work participation has always been low at 26% compared to 52% of men. The problem is that women have always been at work; only the definitions of work and work plan have never been defined or realistic to include their contribution to the economy and the society. Hence we may define a few terms to get a clearer picture.
• Work Force Participation Rate is the proportion of “working” population to total population. Labour force excludes children below the age of 15 and old people above the age of 60. • Worker is one gainfully employed or one working for a livelihood- excluding unpaid family workers. Need to Work Why do women work? Women work mainly for economic independence, for economic necessity, as some women are qualified enough to work, for a sense of achievement and to provide service to the society. Most Indian women by and large undertake “productive work” only under economic compulsion. This is the reason for high female participation rates in economically under privileged communities. Usually upper class women are limited to homes.
Work participation rate is found to be higher among rural women (27%) than the urban women (10%). We will find that women usually go in for temporary and standby jobs because of the prevalent hesitancy to employ women in regular jobs and providing them with good working conditions. The main workers are those who “work” for the major part of the year. Female main workers constitute 14. 65% of the population and men- 50. 54%. Female marginal workers constitute 6. 26% of the population, whereas males being only 0. 98% Most of the women are found to be employed in agricultural activities and in the unorganised sector.
The employment of women is high in the unorganised sector such as part time helpers in households, construction center, tanneries (setting, parting and drying), match and beedi industries etc. An estimate by the World Bank shows that 90% of the women working in the informal sector are not included in the official statistics and their work is undocumented and considered as disguised wage work, unskilled, low paying and do not provide benefits to the workers. Statistics show that vast majority of Indians work in Agriculture where 55% of the population is female agricultural workers and 30% of the men are labourers and not cultivators .
Women’s Working Conditions Women are Overworked Women work roughly twice as many as many hours as men. Women’s contribution to agriculture — whether it be subsistence farming or commercial agriculture — when measured in terms of the number of tasks performed and time spent, is greater than men . “The extent of women’s contribution is aptly highlighted by a micro study conducted in the Indian Himalayas which found that on a one-hectare farm, a pair of bullocks’ works 1,064 hours, a man 1,212 hours and a woman 3,485 hours in a year.
In Andhra Pradesh, (Mies 1986) found that the work day of an woman agricultural labourer during the agricultural season lasts for 15 hours, from 4 am to 8 pm, with an hour’s rest in between. Her male counterpart works for seven to eight hours, from 5 am to 10 am or 11 am and from 3 pm to 5 pm. Another study on time and energy spent by men and women on agricultural work (Batliwala 1982) found that 53 percent of the total human hours per household are contributed by women as compared to 31 percent by men. The remaining contribution comes from children.
The linking of agricultural activities to male dominance is described by Roy Burman (in Menon 1991): The anxiety of man to monopolize his skill in plough culture is reflected in the taboo that is observed almost all over India, against the women’s handling the plough. In many societies, she is not even allowed to touch it. Mies further observed that “whereas operations performed by men were those that entailed the use of machinery and draught animals, thereby using animal, hydraulic, mechanical or electrical energy, women almost always relied on manual labour, using only their own energy. Rice transplantations, the most arduous and labour intensive task in rice cultivation, is carried out entirely by women without the help of any tools.
“Not only do women perform more tasks, their work is also more arduous than that undertaken by men. Both transplantation and weeding require women to spend the whole day and work in muddy soil with their hands. Moreover, they work the entire day under the intensely hot sun while men’s work, such as ploughing and watering the fields, is invariably carried out early in the morning before the sun gets too hot.
Mies argues that because women’s work, unlike men’s, does not involve implements and is based largely on human energy, it is considered unskilled and hence less productive. On this basis, women are invariably paid lower wages, despite the fact that they work harder and for longer hours than men do . ” The invisibility of women’s work as working in the unorganised sector: Women’s work is rarely recognized Many maintain that women’s economic dependence on men impacts their power within the family.
With increased participation in income-earning activities, not only will there be more income for the family, but gender inequality could be reduced. This issue is particularly salient in India because studies show a very low level of female participation in the labor force . This under-reporting is attributed to the frequently held view that women’s work is not economically productive. If all activities — including maintenance of kitchen gardens and poultry, grinding food grains, collecting water and firewood, etc. are taken into account, then 88 percent of rural housewives and 66 percent of urban housewives can be considered as economically productive.
Women’s employment in family farms or businesses is rarely recognized as economically productive, either by men or women. And, any income generated from this work is generally controlled by the men. Such work is unlikely to increase women’s participation in allocating family finances. In a 1992 study of family-based textile workers, male children who helped in a home-based handloom mill were given pocket money, but the adult women and girls were not.
The impact of technology on women The shift from subsistence to a market economy has a dramatic negative impact on women. Where technology has been introduced in areas where women worked, women labourers have often been displaced by men. Threshing of grain was almost exclusively a female task, and with the introduction of automatic grain threshers — which are only operated by men — women have lost an important source of income. Women are Mistreated Women have to face at home forces them to work for meager wages and without social security. However, the working conditions of women in this sector are improving.
Women face a lot of sexual harassment in the course of employment. Due to their inability to work for long hours they are not employed in sensitive or crucial positions. Women in gold mines handle mercury and cyanide with their bare hands. Woman has to work beyond working hours, even in advanced stages of pregnancy, and there is no leave facility. In some quarries in Orissa, women have to work at night and are sexually abused .. In 2005, for the first time, agriculture was no longer the main sector of employment for women and this trend continued in 2006.
The service sector now provides most jobs for women. Of the total number of employed women in 2006, 40. 4 per cent work in agriculture and 42. 4 per cent in services. Recent problems and Government action: The most serious hazard faced by the working class in the era of globalisation is the increasing threat to job security. The informal sector is fast expanding, while the organised sector is shrinking. Contract, casual, temporary, part-time, piece-rated jobs and home based work etc are increasingly replacing permanent jobs.
To circumvent resistance to amendments to labour laws and to give the employers the freedom to ‘hire and fire’ workers, the governments of the day are resorting to various back door measures. Work is often unskilled or low skilled and low paid. Availability of work is irregular; when work is available, they have to work for long hours. However the concerned governments choose to ignore this open Usually the safety devises are designed keeping the male workers in view and become unsuitable for women workers. Besides, the social aspects of work are not considered risk factors.
As a result, more emphasis is given to work related accidents than to illnesses. There have been academic studies on the feminisation of labour and of the working conditions of women in small units. The total workforce in India – unorganised and organised sectors – is 39. 7 crore, according to a 2006 Planning Commission report of a Working Group on Social Security for the Eleventh Five-Year Plan. While the organised sector comprises seven per cent of this workforce, of the remaining, the unorganised sector is almost entirely made up of women – around 12 crore or about 95 per cent.
While the proportion of women in urban workforce has always been lesser than that of the rural agricultural labour, the plight of women in the ‘organised’ sector is no better. “The sector is organised but the workers are not,”. “As far as unorganised workers are concerned, there are no minimum wages, no benefits and there are no unions. It is very difficult for workers to unionise and whenever they take up an issue, the companies close down only to open elsewhere,” say labour lawyers For women workers the issue is complicated by the Factories Act, 1948, which prohibits night shifts for women, except under certain conditions.
It is the responsibility of employers to provide safe working conditions for their workers but when women in the fisheries industry demanded better working conditions they were beaten up and their protest fizzled out. Women workers in the unorganised sector in India struggle to find a way out of poverty and live a life of respect. However, limited opportunities for growth and bare minimum wages make it an uphill task.