Sunday, January 18, 2009

Silent Labor

Innocent victims of the Satyam saga are the close to 53,000 employees of the Satyam group who obviously have done nothing wrong; they were slogging away at their posts doing their assigned tasks. One of the many priorities of the new government appointed board is to protect the interests of the employees. While the board is to be commended for taking its responsibilities seriously and laying out its priorities, the government seems to have acted as it were to keep the “India Shining” image gleaming and polished for the world’s gaze.

While the government has acted with alacrity, to protect the interests of the well educated and well paid Satyam workers, who are able to generate media attention, bog on line, and basically lobby to protect their interests, it would be great to see the government react with equal speed for those who don’t have that kind of clouts. India is home to the second largest labour force in the world. And more than 90 percent of those eligible to work are employed in the unorganized sector. Despite tough labour laws, unorganized sector workers remain deprived of legal protections

The first National Commission on Labour (1966-69) defined unorganised labour as those who have not been able to organise themselves in pursuit of common objectives on account of constraints like casual nature of employment, ignorance and illiteracy, small and scattered size of establishments and position of power enjoyed by employers because of the nature of industry etc. Nearly 20 years later the National Commission on Rural Labour (NCRL: 1987-91) visualised the same scenario and the same contributory factors leading to the present status of unorganised rural labour in India.

The unorganized / informal employment consists of causal and contributing family workers; self employed persons in un-organized sector and private households; and other employed in organized and unorganized enterprises that are not eligible either for paid, sick or annual leave or for any social security benefits given by the employer. The bulk of the working population is in the unorganized sector (i.e. 91% of the total population) and this workforce is as yet not actively unionized. The organized sector, which is generally extant around urban settlements, accounts for only 9% of the total work force.

The contribution of the unorganized workforce to the economic health of India society has largely remained neglected. In India, this sector accounts for

- 60% of Net Domestic Product (i.e., GDP minus depreciation),

- 68% of income, 60% of savings,

- 31% of agricultural exports, and

- 41% of manufactured exports.

Women workers in the unorganized sector – the farm workers, vendors, casual construction labour, domestic help, home-based workers – are even far more neglected and unaccounted-for part of the informal economy. This is so, since the self-employed women work from homes and their contribution is mostly not calculated into the national economic data. However, according to the National Sample Survey ’05, one-third of the informal sector workforce (about 120mn) comprises of women. Collectively, they accounted for 96% of the female workforce in the country, and contribute to about 20% GDP of India.

But this is a largely docile, silent and submissive work force more pre occupied with making ends meet and putting a meal in the stomachs of their families every evening, they don’t hunch in front of computers writing blogs and signing on line petitions. Their cause championed only by an increasingly irrelevant Left. This silent cause will cause will therefore will trawl through the corridors of power at the proverbial pace of the snail.

1 comment:

Winnowed said...

It seems like Satyam might have fewer than 53,000 employees. Apparently the Rajus showed a higher number of employees in their records in order to siphon the salary money payable to the non-existent employees.