At present, an estimated 93% of India’s workforce i.e. 423 million is employed informally, among them 90% of the population comprises of marginalized identities (Women, Dalits, Tribals and Muslims). As per the Arjun Sengupta (National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector- NCEUS) Report, 2007, 79% of the informal workers fall in the category of vulnerable and poor. Even though the work of informal workforce contributes to more than 65% of the country’s GDP, their contribution, as well as the exploitative conditions in which they work, remain largely invisible. This report also highlights that 78% of these workers earns less than Rs. 20 per day. Also these workers work without the protection of labour laws and the benefits of social security.
Among this group of vulnerable identities, women face added vulnerabilities as workers. Out of the entire women workforce globally, 91% of these women are employed informally. In addition to the exploitation and harassment that majority of the informal workers face, women suffer added exploitations in the form of sexual harassment at the workplace, exclusion from better-paying ‘skilled’ work, and less pay as compared to their male counterparts. The children are also not left out from this informal work and are employed in large numbers for various odd jobs and often work for more time and are paid less than what is paid to the adult workers.
Cities have become symbols of growth and development. The job creations and opportunities are more visible and concentrated in urban agglomerations. Therefore, the urban centres are the magnets pulling people looking for employment opportunities. This kind of lopsided development and regional disparities lead to more and more people moving to cities where jobs of informal and contractual nature were available. The traditional occupations failed to attract the people as they failed to provide enough wages to sustain the worker and his/her families. Most of the people migrating to the urban areas in search of livelihood are unskilled and migrate from drought hit areas of the state or other parts of the country. These people usually engage in street vending, building and construction related work, domestic work, rag picking, etc.
Over the last several years that we have been working with Informal workers in Maharashtra, we started with addressing their day to day issues of harassment and addressing their concerns through networking and advocacy. The result has been that YUVA Urban has gained credibility among the informal workers (construction workers, domestic workers & street vendors). With the passage of Acts such as the Street Vendors Act 2009, Domestic Workers Act 2008, the Building and Other Construction Workers Act 1996 and the Social Security Act 2008, it is important for us to now work towards the implementation of the laws that we have campaigned for. The implementation of these Acts is specific to the sectors and hence it is important to adopt a sectoral approach to do justice to the monitoring and implementation of these Acts. In the future we plan to organize informal workers sectorally i.e. based on their occupation. We would be working with street vendors, construction workers/ Naka workers and domestic workers. YUVA Urban has a special focus on those who migrate to urban centres in the hope of improving their livelihood. These migrant populations form an extremely vulnerable sub-sector of the informal economy.
This thematic area of work focuses on the rights, promotion and protection of informal sector workers. We believe that those who work in the informal sector make up the backbone of our economy. They should be entitled to the same rights bestowed upon the formal economy. They deserve the right to work, right to social security and livelihood protection and promotion. To ensure this, YUVA Urban works in the following ways:
YUVA Urban has a special focus on those who migrate to urban centres in the hope of improving their livelihood. These migrant populations form an extremely vulnerable sub-sector of the informal economy.