Saturday, September 3, 2016

Portraits of labourers in Delhi (2)

Photo: Marcel Fens, on his guided tour of Khari Baoli
What words would you use to describe the people in this photo? Relaxed? Happy? Yes. They're having a nice break, waiting for work.

But there are two more words that come to my mind, and those are not-so-nice: Uneducated and Unskilled.

The informal sector in India is characterized by uneducated and unskilled labour.

Education levels are abysmal. One-fourth (23%) of informal labour is illiterate; having never gone to school. About 10% have studied upto primary school. So that's one-third of the labour force, which doesn't really know how to read or write much. They are vulnerable to exploitation, not just by employers and middlemen, but also by moneylenders. Roughly 48% of workers in the informal sector have studied until Grade 10.

In addition to the poor literacy levels, informal labourers do not have specific vocational training or skills that will bring them better paid jobs. Thus they bring literally nothing to the bargaining table, and must make-do with whatever current rates are offered to them. More than half of the informal labour force is self-employed. This makes it even more difficult to negotiate for improvements.

At the end of the day, it's about education. Until we improve vocational skills and ensure basic literacy, we're going to keep seeing low-paid, poor and unhealthy workforce.

Data source:
Confederation of Indian Industries
An Analysis of the Informal Labour Market in India
A. Srija & Shrinivas V. Shirke

Friday, September 2, 2016

Portraits of labourers in Delhi (1)

Photo credit: Marcel Fens, who travelled through Delhi and Rajasthan with us
The vast majority of workers in India are in informal jobs. The ILO estimates that the overall proportion of informal workers in total employment is 92%. Pretty staggering, huh? This includes not only those in unorganised sector, but also contract and informal workers in the organised sector.

These men in the photo are hired to transfer goods from shops in the wholesale markets, to waiting trucks. The gamcha, a checked towel, is a multi-purpose textile that all of them have. Almost a class trademark.

The government has mandated minimum daily wages for unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled labour, but that applies only to those who you hire for the full day. The men in this photo are probably being paid by piece / sack loaded or unloaded. 

ILO Country Office for India | July 2016