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2022 | Book

Employment in the Informal Sector in India

Author: Dr. Ishita Mukhopadhyay

Publisher: Springer Nature Singapore

Book Series : India Studies in Business and Economics

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About this book

This book examines the transition, transformation and future of the informal sector, informal work and informal workers in India from the perspectives of development economics as well as those of international organisations.

Though the informal sector has a long tradition in India, it has been transformed in the wake of neoliberal economic policy. The sector took on new prominence in the 1980s, and has since grown much stronger and established itself as the country’s dominant sector. Several reports on the informal sector appeared during this period, and the status of the sector in India is positioned in the context of this international scenario.

The major debate concerns the definition of this sector. While international labour statisticians had suggested a mechanism of definition and measurement of the sector, Indian official statistics took a different approach. The book analytically elaborates the different definitions and measurement controversies in different countries and contextualises the official Indian position. While deliberating on the size, contribution, productivity, and potential of the informal sector, the heterogeneity and decomposition of the sector with respect to these aspects are also suggested. The book develops a political economic interpretation of the historical transition of the informal sector in India, employing heterodox economics as a theoretical basis, with a critical note on standard neoclassical economic analysis. The final part of the book focuses on understanding the development of capitalism in the country under neoliberalism, as that development is crucial to understanding the informal sector in any country, and particularly in India. In the current context, the volume will be of great relevance to researchers, non-government organizations, policy makers and international organisations working on the topic.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter
1. Introduction
Abstract
This chapter introduces the reader to the content of the book on informal sector employment in India over the last decades. Chapter descriptions lead to the main focus of the book. In the background of the massive dependence of labour force on the informal sector, which has increased after neoliberalism, we need to consider whether the country is at all giving recognition to this employment in terms of data and contribution. The perspective became more visible during recent COVID-19 phase where all the invisible sectors mostly informal were made visible. The analytical structure in production and labour relations was put into question in contemporary India. The book also deals extensively with the urban informal sector in a metropolis Kolkata as a live historical evidence at the end derives a structure based on production and employment relations in the country in a political-economic framework.
Ishita Mukhopadhyay
2. Expansion and Expectation: Footlooseness
Abstract
The chapter describes the origin of the concept of informal sector and development of the concept on the empirical basis in the different countries of the world. Conceptualization of informal sector, informality, and informal employment changed continuously according to the real changes in the society. Informal employment has become more vulnerable, yielded to unprotected unregulated labour and poverty in the countries. The chapter narrates situation in the entire world, with India tracing a different history in the process. Footlooseness of labour has always accompanied informal sector as shown in the different countries.
Ishita Mukhopadhyay
3. Did We Explain?
Abstract
The chapter discusses the different approaches in mainstream economics as well as in heterodox framework the informal sector: its existence, its relationship with the formal sector, its production and labour relations, and its development. The question that whether economics explains the existence and dynamics becomes a larger issue which there is need to address. Institutional Economics and Political Economy poses  the query of why the informal exists after all. But many other explanations take the dualistic framework as given in the economy. The chapter ends with a still continuing riddle on the sector: why does it at all exist?
Ishita Mukhopadhyay
4. Alternative Explanations from the Labour Studies
Abstract
This chapter makes a synopsis of the explanation of the problem from the point of sociological anthropological labour studies. Mainstream economics came out with explanation much later in a chronological date regarding the problems of the sector. The sector was much of an empirical discovery of the socio-anthropological labour studies initiated by International Labour Organization’s different missions in Africa. Latin America and the Asian countries also were showing evidences. The lessons learnt from these evidences are captured in this chapter. This is a step towards understanding the problems of the sector, and particularly its origins and dimensions, which are still determining the spread of the sector in the world. This chapter has mostly used historical evidences from the first signs of appearance of the sector in the world.
Ishita Mukhopadhyay
5. Transition in Indian Employment
Abstract
The chapter narrates the transition in Indian employment scenario, which facilitated the expansion of the informal sector after the adoption of neoliberal economic policies. Indian official statistics is used to understand the transition in terms of productivity, fragmentation of units, missing employment in the informal sector in terms of official statistics of the country. The coexistence of increasing unemployment and proportionately increasing employment in the informal sector hints towards a change in the vision of employment. The situation as revealed in pandemic period is also discussed, much of it was already existed before.
Ishita Mukhopadhyay
6. Definitional Dilemma
Abstract
The chapter looks into the different kinds of definitions of informal which have been adopted in labour economics. Guided by International Labour Organization the definition has changed, adopting to changes in socioeconomic dynamics. Heterogeneity of the sector proved incapability of a simple definition to capture the sector itself. Initiating with a legalistic definition, the sector is now defined by moving on to the concepts of informality and informal employment. The dilemma which we learn from this historical journey is discussed in this chapter.
Ishita Mukhopadhyay
7. Process of Informalization of Employment
Abstract
Expansion of the informal sector has meant the introduction of new economic activities which are informal employment or are within informal sector along with a predominant process of shrinkage of the existing formal sector and conversion of the formal to informal. These tendencies are dynamic in nature and broadly define the process of informalization. The chapter discusses this process and its close association with neoliberal capitalist development in the country. The measure of informalization is mostly qualitative in terms of conditions of work and less quantitative. The process of informalization has resulted in a continuum of labour relations which passed through various stages in institutional history.
Ishita Mukhopadhyay
8. Primary Surveys of Kolkata Informal Employment
Abstract
The study of informal sector in Kolkata is narrated as a standard case study of historical evolution of urban informal sector in India. Independent surveys of the author and other researchers serve as the basis of analysis. Kolkata earlier called Calcutta stands as a unique case as it hosted small, petty producers, migrant labour from the years of post-colonial development era of India. Then it faced the neoliberalism and Kolkata was also under a different political regime for a long time. The experience of Kolkata informal sector is different from many other cities of the country. The chapter studies Kolkata informal sector over the decades.
Ishita Mukhopadhyay
9. Urban Informal Sector and Communal Violence: Case Study of 1992 Riots in Kolkata
Abstract
Informal sector is vulnerable to exogenous shocks much more than the formal sector. Even within the formal sector due to heterogeneity, vulnerability differs. This chapter deals with a historical case study of the outcome of an exogenous shock to Kolkata informal sector in the context of 1992 communal violence. The snapshot study of post-Ayodhya riots revealed that the more stable formal sector intended to ensure its economic security by dumping goods and other consumables in the informal sector with which it had linkages. As a result the latter suffered worse economic loss. The same kind of phenomenon was observed in Kolkata during COVID 19 lockdown phase.
Ishita Mukhopadhyay
10. Kolkata’s Informal Sector: Changing Pattern of Labour Use
Abstract
Kolkata already contained a large informal sector of industrial activities in colonial times. The trends, which were visible in the pre-independence days, were reinforced in the first fifty postcolonial India. A heterogeneous labour force is employed without the sanction of labour legislation and they are rising continuously in Third World urban sites or agglomerates. Both domestic and foreign firms thrived in the city area on the basis of ancillarisation. The chapter attempts to trace the changing pattern of labour use in this amorphous segment in Kolkata urban agglomerate during the last few decades. The all India industrial scene also revealed an increasing trend of marginalization and casualization of labour force. Kolkata had witnessed a spurt in informal activities during the last few decades. The city also experienced a difference in policy prescriptions in the state of West Bengal. Labour organisations are much stronger in this state and labour movements have included the workers in this segment. The chapter investigates whether this affected the pattern of labour use in the state.
Ishita Mukhopadhyay
11. Is Informal Urban in India?
Abstract
We have become familiar with the word “urban informal” from the discovery of the sector itself. Urbanization with capitalist expansion has involved inequality in the nature of jobs and creation of informal sector, which conceptually moved on to informal employment and finally to urban informality as a general feature. India experienced a change in rural occupations and a rise in rural informal sector also. India has moved on from the phase of “urban informal” in India to also substantially “rural informal”.
Ishita Mukhopadhyay
12. Women in Informality
Abstract
Women’s employment has been central to the question of informal employment in the world, particularly in developing countries. Women’s employment has centred around the informal sector which transformed to informal employment or employment without social protection. Informal employment too hosted women to a large extent. Indian employment showed and continued to show the same skewness of mostly women in unprotected, precarious jobs with informality. This chapter analyses the gendered aspect of informality with special emphasis on Indian context.
Ishita Mukhopadhyay
13. Informal Employment in India’s Development Trajectory
Abstract
India’s post-colonial development trajectory went on through different stages. Starting with Five-year plans and then moving on to neoliberalism has seen Indian informal sector with petty production also moving along with the transition. Here an overall summary of the trajectory of Indian informal sector through the phases of planned mixed economy, neoliberalism and privatization, and the current phase of aggressive corporatization is presented. Informal sector employment has gradually moved to informal employment with increasing informality in economic activities. The chapter analyses the trajectory from political economic perspective.
Ishita Mukhopadhyay
14. Concluding Notes
Abstract
The previous chapters have flagged off issues which historically are left as unsolved puzzles. The puzzles remain in Indian official statistics, collection of data, macroeconomic indicators, and policy responses. The analytical understanding is also not clear. The future also seems to be bleak. This concluding chapter leaves a few notes which need to be resolved by the country planners and theoretical research.
Ishita Mukhopadhyay
Backmatter
Metadata
Title
Employment in the Informal Sector in India
Author
Dr. Ishita Mukhopadhyay
Copyright Year
2022
Publisher
Springer Nature Singapore
Electronic ISBN
978-981-15-0841-7
Print ISBN
978-981-15-0840-0
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-15-0841-7

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