Plight of Women Employed In Unorganised Sector

Problems faced by Women in Unorganized Sector

The term ‘unorganized labor’ stands for scattered and fragmented workforces working individually sometimes loosely associated, in various occupations. Unorganized labor is not formally cohesive in any recognized association and union with defined ideology, goals, and areas of specialization.

In India, women constitute nearly half of the total population and they play a vital role in the domestic sphere, in the rural field and also in an urban economy. Yet, their economic status is still low as it reflects from the census data, particularly of those who are engaged in the informal sector of the urban economy. In many- a –case, they are at a disadvantage as their work is in people’s private homes, outside the arena of labor inspectors.

Unorganized sector always plays a vital role in terms of providing employment opportunities to a large segment of the workforce in India. Near about 92% of the total employment in the Indian economy during the period 1999-2000 was accounted for by the unorganized/informal sector.

A large number of women from rural areas migrate to cities and towns all over India to work in Unorganized Sector. Most of these women and girls are illiterate and unskilled. They work in inhumane conditions in cities as their living standard is extremely poor. It is a recognized fact that there is still no society in the world in which Women in Unorganized Sector enjoy the same opportunities as men.

According to the 2001 census, about 96% of Women in Unorganized Sector in India.

Problems faced by Women in Unorganized Sector:

  • Lack of education: Illiteracy is the biggest problem because they do not get time to educate themselves. In childhood, they have to start working early which do not allow them to go to school.
  • Insufficient skill & knowledge: Majority of female do not have proper training and skills aligned to their task. This results in excessive stress and inefficient working.
  • The exploitation of female labor: the Female worker is more vulnerable to exploitation by the employer. They can be easily threatened with their job for indecent favors. They are also subjected to severe forms of sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • Insecure job: Absence of strong legislation controlling the unorganized sector makes the job highly insecure in this sector.
  • The non-sympathetic attitude of employer: Temporary nature of employment in this sector does not allow the bond between the employee and employer to establish and become strong.
  • Extreme work pressure: Female are overworked; they work twice as many hours as worked by their male counterpart. In the agriculture sector, the condition is the worst. When measured in terms of the number of tasks performed and the total time spent, it is greater than men as per one study in the Himalayas which found that on a one-hectare farm, a pair of bullocks’ works 1064 hours, a man 1212 hours and a woman 3485 hours in a year.
  • Irregular wages payment: There is a lack of controlled processes in the unorganized sector which results in an untimely payment of wages to the workers. When it comes to payment to female, it is even worst.
  • Wage discrimination: Female do not get similar payment to the male for the same work.

The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 safeguards the interests of workers by providing fixation of minimum wages mainly focusing on the unorganized sector and in specified occupations (called scheduled employments) (Section 2 g). The act binds the employers to pay their workers the minimum wages fixed under the Act from time to time (Section 12). Owing to their jurisdiction the Central and the State Governments fix, revise, review and enforce the payment of minimum wages without any discrimination of gender (Section 3).

With effect from November 2009, the National Floor Level Minimum Wage has been increased to Rs 100 from Rs 80 (in September 2007). Several states have fixed higher Minimum wages than those prescribed by Central Government for highly skilled, skilled, unskilled and semi-skilled workers engaged in Scheduled employments.


Workers: Wages to disabled people and those payable to a dependent family member of the employer

Industries: Un-scheduled industries are generally excluded. With every revision of minimum wages, a state can add a minimum wage for an occupation or specify it for a sector.

Even if the Minimum Wages Act prescribes a minimum wage for females in the unorganized sector, females are still exploited and underpaid by their employers.

  • Seasonal employment: Many of the unorganized sector industries are seasonal. These industries include fruits processing, pickle making, agricultural sector, construction sector, etc. They have to fetch another employment when there is no work during the off-season.
  • Physical problems: The working conditions are not healthy. The workplace is not ergonomically designed. This results in workers facing fatigue resulting in physical problems. Female workers are mostly on such tasks where they need to remain in one position such as agriculture. This results on to savior problems such as a backache and knee-ache. [1]

Comparative Study of Women in Unorganized Sector in USA and India

In the USA, the minimum wage rate for the Women in Unorganized Sector is at least $7 per hour, it can go up to $18 per hour. However, in India, the minimum wage rate is Rs 100 per hour which is very low when compared to other countries.

In the USA, the workers employed in the unorganized sector get social security benefits and medical benefits. Women get maternity benefits and a comprehensive system is there to make sure that the workers are not discriminated and are able to work with dignity. Every worker is respected and behaved with, properly.

Whereas in India, workers employed in the unorganized sector do not get any social security benefits, for women the benefits are equal to none. The workers are also not treated properly in society.

The USA and other developed countries have set an example for the developing countries to follow. Developing countries like India should formulate a policy which ensures all-round development of persons (especially women) employed in the unorganized sector.

Legal Frameworks available for Women in the Unorganized Sector

Constitutional rights and duties enumerated in Part III and IV of the Constitution of India are pivotal to the demand for protection of laws of women workers. There are a few legislation, which is directly applicable for women workers, such as, The Maternity Benefit Act, The Equal Remuneration Act, The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), etc. Article 14 guarantees equality before the law and equal protection of laws; Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the ground of sex. The Equal Remuneration Act guarantees women equal treatment relative to similarly situated men in the workplace. Under this law, no discrimination is permissible in recruitment and service conditions except where the employment of women is prohibited or restricted by the law.

Many studies find that women workers earn lower wages than men workers. The wage differentials between female and male agricultural workers are based on a pre-assumed gender character. Employers and contractors offer simply lower wages to women, regardless of their performance of the job. In the given situation of social and economic neglect, women have no better options. Studies indicate that on average, women’s pay is around 30 percent lower than that of men across all sectors and fields of employment. Employers divide the kind of work to be done between men and women and technically evade the provisions of the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.

The Unorganized Sector Workers Act, 2008 defines unorganized sector workers as those who are home-based, self-employed or wage workers in an enterprise with less than 10 employees. This Act mandates the Central government to formulate a health and maternity benefit scheme for workers covered by it.

In reality, this definition also excludes many women working in the unorganized sector, including agricultural laborers, seasonal workers, domestic help or construction workers.

Suggestions for Reforms Women in Unorganized Sector

  • Since women workers lack in skill, skill development programs should be provided to them to enhance their skill level.
  • Women workers should be educated and make them aware of their rights and legislative provisions.
  • It is very much essential to create awareness among women workers about the institutional support available to them to protect their rights.
  • A comprehensive law is needed to protect the rights of women workers.
  • Any kind of exploitation including sexual harassment of women workers is to be prevented and stringent action needs to be taken against the wrongdoer.
  • Mass media should be used to communicate the social message relating to women equality.
  • A separate women grievance cell headed by a woman should be established in every organization sector and in case of unorganized sector women to form self-help groups for their protection.
  • Necessary amendments are required to be made in labor laws.
  • There should be proper regulation of unorganized sector industries, which ensure job security, healthy work environment and at least minimum wages, maternity and childcare benefits.

The unorganized sector is larger in rural areas as compared to urban areas. The female participation in this sector is more than male. Women worker face grave problems. Their condition is highly unpredictable and has constraints related to their work.

It is also clear that self-awareness and education are the magic wands which will fuel the revolution.

[1] Manju, “Women in Unorganized Sector – Problems & Issues in India ”(International Journal of Applied Research March 21, 2017) <http://www.allresearchjournal.com/archives/2017/vol3issue4/PartL/3-4-182-302.pdf> accessed November 5, 2018

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by mimansa pujari
  1. The article is really informative. I am grateful to the writer. I will be oblige, if I can get some feedback on Unorganized Women Workers. I want to conduct a study on the plight of women workers in unorganized sector with focus on gaps and policy recommendations etc.

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