CSSP Talk on
Intersection of Labour and Technology in India's Informal Economy: A Policy Perspective
Dr Kingshuk Sarkar
Fellow, V V Giri National Labour Institute, NOIDA
Delivered on Wednesday, 16th November 2016
Abstract: There have been some significant changes in the world of work in the last two decades and half particularly since the time India initiated economic reforms in 1991. These changes are happening as part of a global phenomenon. The crux of this phenomenon is the quest towards producing at the least cost possible and capital moves anywhere the cost of production is the minimum. Since labour constitutes a significant component of cost of production, structure of production is getting reorganized in such a manner that return to labour is minimized in the process. This is manifesting itself in the form of disintegration of production structure such that labour as such undergoes sunstantial changes in its character. Labour is getting more informalized, casualized and decentralized over time to respond to market fluctuations and flexibility of the cost of production structure. Such outlook perceives labour just another input in the production function and tries to extract maximum return in exchange of minimum compensation. It undermines the living characteristics of labour and the fact that labour as a class constitutes the major chunk of consumers in macro sense. Prevailing prolonged global economic recession and that economy in general is suffering from lack of aggregate demand bears testimony to such phenomenon. Labour market is getting diffused as centralized system of production is breaking down and outsourcing is practiced extensively. Old factory system of production is making way for a work environment where domestic space becomes the pre-dominant work space. Wage labour is getting replaced by self-employed mass contributing from the fringe. The identity of labour as a class is at stake. The employer-employee relation is being diluted to a great extent and there has been substantial dismantling of written contract between the two. In such an environment, application of legislations safeguarding the interests of workers becomes more compromised. Further, recent attempts towards labour law reforms are further aggravating the terms of employment and conditions of labour. Enforcement of labour laws have become uniformly weak over the country and basic inspection norms are being flouted which is weakening the labour administrative structure. The government is focusing on redistribution through various social security and welfare schemes but at the same time statutory provisions are not being appropriately implemented. Tripartite consultation as an integral part of social dialogue is getting marginalized. Traditional trade union movement weakened over time as because they didn't represent informal and vulnerable sections of the workers any more. Their place is being increasingly taken over by civil society organizations and NGOs.
About the Speaker: Dr. Kingshuk Sarkar is presently working as Fellow in the VV Giri National Labour Institute, Noida on deputation. He primarily works for Govt. of West Bengal as Deputy Labour Commissioner. He has done PhD in Economics from Centre for Economic Studies & Planning in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Earlier he completed Masters in Economics from Kolkata University and M.Phil in Economics from Jadavpur University. His areas of interests are plantation economics, labour economics, law and economics, labour administration, etc. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org