BROKEN MARKETS: REFLECTIONS FROM INDIA’S LABOUR LANDSCAPE

Labour market is affected by various adversities which directly affect the labour’s quality of life, productivity and economic efficiency. Following the InfoSphere issue on BROKEN MARKETS:  REFLECTIONS FROM INDIA’S LABOUR LANDSCAPE Part-1, this article looks to further analyse the intertwined relation of migrant workers, child labour and other systematic problems which affect the lives of work class population and reveals the fragmentated labour landscape. This series is part of the Shram Ko Naman initiative which is a collective effort of the Centre for New Economics Studies to interpret and understand the impact of the current crisis on India’s working class.  

Exodus of a floating population in the form of labour migrants is prevalent in India. Labour migration is caused by the disparity in availability of opportunity in certain regions which lead to transfer of population in search for better job opportunity and higher standard of living, on an average of about 14 million people migrate every year to search for employment opportunity. It is observed that this population disperses to regions of capitalistic development. The sudden influx in these regions of capitalist development enables agrarian capitalists to impose subpar working conditions and restricted degrees of freedom on migrant labourers. Migrants accept these living conditions as they may enjoy superior working conditions and economic opportunities. There has been a significant rise in the number of migrants by place of last residence, 453.6 million according to 2011 census data, which suggests an addition of 139 million since 2001. A large fraction of this population represents inter-state migrants. 

Limited employment opportunities in rural areas and predominance of low income, push families out of their rural homes. Landlessness was a major cause of migration. Seventy one percent of the workers were in the 15-35 years age group. In many of the migration processes, the entire family is employed in kilns, and there is intense competition between owners to secure labour. Migrants moving from rural to urban areas often face more economic hardships and due to marginal work with subsistence pay, these migrants find it hard to sustain and survive in the fast-paced urban life. There has been considerable discussion of these issues in the context of Punjab’s agriculture. According to a report published under the WORK IN FREEDOM by International labour organisation it is observed that although with time the labour landscape is freed from worst forms of exploitation, bonded labour relations are still reported in Punjab agriculture. Even in Western Uttar Pradesh active usage of bondage and forced labour among migrant labourers.

As the whole family migrates to a new region, children substitute their education for work. Children of these urban migrant families are often employed in menial underpaid jobs. It is observed that these children aged between years. An analysis conducted  on the educational level of child workers in the age group of 5–14 years across various states in India revealed striking trends which shows that the majority of child workers are literate. Despite their educational potential and the insurmountable opportunity cost of missing education, their choice to join the workforce is employment is a result of economic distress of the migrant family. They thus, get completely excluded from the education system and are unable to achieve higher education.

Economic rehabilitation programs for families are  essential for elimination of the problems concerning the various fragmentation of labour market issues and there is a need to complement these programmes with programmes which center around the rehabilitation of children. Although there has been significant progress in efforts to enforce of stringent child labour law, these efforts did not pronounce effective results in the form of lawful conviction and prosecution. 

The processes for controlling distressed migration and debt bondage should include raising minimum wages which could result in warm glow effect, and thereby, serve as preventive measure for controlling child labour and enabling children to continue with schooling in their native homes.To capture the magnitude of domestic child labour and devise interventive policies for their education, an account of activities of such children needs to be included in the official statistics. If these children do not work along with their parents, provisions should be made for the temporary settlements to look after their siblings. Children, who are unable to access the formal schooling system, need to be provided with education through alternative means. 

Divyansh Singh Parihar is a second year student of O.P Jindal Global University pursuing his major in Economics.

 

 

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