Academic journal article Journal of Management and Public Policy

Discrimination against Women Labourers in the Unorganised Sector: A Study in Dindigul District of Tamil Nadu

Academic journal article Journal of Management and Public Policy

Discrimination against Women Labourers in the Unorganised Sector: A Study in Dindigul District of Tamil Nadu

Article excerpt


Labour policy in India has been evolving in response to specific needs of the situation to suit requirements of planned economic development and social justice and has two-fold objectives, viz., maintaining industrial peace and promoting the welfare of labour. Women constitute a significant part of the work force of India but they lag behind men in terms of level and quality of employment. Over 96 per cent of women work in the informal unorganized sector. The informal sector constitutes 93 per cent of the workforce of the population of India. These workers contribute 62 per cent to the gross domestic product (GDP), and 50 per cent to the national income. This sector includes workers employed in a wide

range of economic activities, from street vendors and casual workers in a mill workers permanent workers and temporary workers.

However, unlike workers in the formal sectors, they do not have access to regular incomes or welfare benefits, making them extremely vulnerable to change and insecurity. The informal sector includes jobs such as domestic servant, small trader, artisan, or field labourer on a family farm. Most of these jobs are unskilled and low paying and do not provide benefits to the worker. The women workers in the informal sector constituted about 91.38 per cent. Similarly, among rural workers, about 92 per cent were in the informal sector. The National commission for women estimates that 94 Per cent of the total female workforce is to be found in the unorganized sector. The growth of small and cottage industries has depended heavily on female labour.

The main focus of the policies of the Government with regard to women labour has been to remove the handicaps under which they work, to strengthen their bargaining capacity, to improve their wages and working conditions, to enhance their skills and to open up better employment opportunities for them. A separate cell, namely Women Labour Cell is functioning in the Ministry of Labour to address these problems. The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 and equal Remuneration Act, 1976 are the protective and anti-exploitative legislations which have been enacted to protect and safeguard the interests of women workers at the workplaces. The Equal Remuneration Act stipulates payment of equal remuneration to men and women workers for same and similar nature of work. The Act also prohibits any gender discrimination in recruitment and service conditions. Under the Act, a Committee has been set up at the Centre to advise the Government in providing increasing employment opportunities for women and generally reviewing the steps taken for effective implementation of the Act. Similar committees have also been set up at the state level along with competent authorities to oversee the process of implementation of the Equal Remuneration Act.

The Supreme Court of India in its landmark judgment dated 13 August 1997 in the matter of Visakha and others versus the State of Rajasthan and others laid down detailed guidelines/norms for prevention of sexual harassment of women workers at work-places. These guidelines have the force of law under Article 141 of the Constitution of India.

The government has taken a number of initiatives to give effect to the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court, these include circulation of the guidelines for action as indicated therein to all Secretaries to the Government of India/Chief Secretaries of the State Governments/Union Territories, Heads of Central Public Sector Undertakings and employees/employees organisations. Conduct Rules applicable to Government employees and officers of All India Services have been amended to incorporate Supreme Court guidelines. To make the guidelines applicable to employees in private and unorganized sectors, the industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 has also been amended accordingly.

Article 47 of the Indian Constitution require that the state should regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of public health, as among its primary duties. …

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