National Commission on Labour (1966-69) has defined unorganized labour as those who have not been able to organize themselves in pursuit of common objectives on account of constraints like casual nature of employment, ignorance and illiteracy, small and scattered size of establishments and position of power enjoyed by employers because of nature of industry. Unorganized sector was coined by the British economist Keith Hart in 1971. Having no fixed employer, these workers are casual, contractual, migrant, home based, own-account workers who attempt to earn a living from whatever meagre assets and skills they possess. Unorganized sector comprises of major part of Indian Economy. In unorganized sector, those enterprises and employments are involved which are unregistered under any legal provision. More than 90% man power contributes in unorganized sector globally. In, Indian scenario, 86% of human resource is employed in unorganized sector. 91% of women workers in unorganized sector are rendering their services.
The Indian constitution is one of the most progressive in the world and guarantees equal rights for men and women. Despite the advances women have still given second priority almost everywhere especially in unorganised sector in terms of level and quality of employment compared to males. The women working in these unorganised sectors are often outside the reach of Protective Labour Laws and Trade Union Organizations. They often have long hours of work, there is wage discrimination between men and women, lack of job security, no minimum wages, lack of minimum facilities at work place, ill-treatment, heavy physical work and sexual exploitation etc. This sector provides them with no opportunity to improve their income.
SOME OF THE PROBLEMS OF WOMEN WORKERS IN UNORGANISED SECTOR
The unorganised sector pictures glaring wage discrimination between men and women. The wages of a female worker is Rs. 40 per day less than a male worker. Say if wages of a male worker is Rs 120 then wages of female workers will be Rs. 80. In house construction activity, male and female unskilled workers doing near about the same work; yet female workers got 30% less wages than male workers. Most of these women tell that their skills are compared to that of male workers.
Under Indian Constitution provides for equal pay for equal work to both men and women. The Indian Constitution also envisages that men and women shall be treated equally and shall be treated at par. Then why does there exist a sense of discrimination between the two sexes in various fields is a question that is still answered.
Working women are always in danger of physical and economical exploitation by their male co-workers. Physically females are supposed to be gentle and weaker than males.
IGNORANCE AND ILLITERACY
Most of the female construction workers are illiterate. They do not know about the government rules and regulations as well as working conditions. They are very ignorant about market conditions as well as ups and downs in their wage rates. As they are scattered in nature they are totally helpless in pursuit of their common interest. Ignorance and illiteracy are the prime obstacles in the progress of working women. The present estimated male and female literacy percentages are 62 and 38 respectively. The enhancement of male and female literacy is 0.7 per cent per year. Primary and secondary school enrolment and attendance rates are lower for girls than for boys (according to UNICEF), indicating preference in regard to access to education.
Women are playing multiple role in the society. Hence, they are also facing multiple problems. Every member in a family expects a lot from women. As expectation increases number of family problems increases. Domestic violence and divorce etc. are the general family problems, which women face. All these family problems put female workers into trouble. Discrimination against women has contributed to gender wage differentials, with Indian women on average earning 64% of what their male counterparts earn for the same occupation and level of qualification.
The most serious hazard faced by the working class in the era of globalisation is the increasing threat to job security. The informal sector is fast expanding, while the organised sector is shrinking. Contract, casual, temporary, part-time, piece-rated jobs and home based work etc. are increasingly replacing permanent jobs. To circumvent resistance to amendments to labour laws and to give the employers the freedom to ‘hire and fire’ workers, the governments of the day are resorting to various back door measures. Special Economic Zones, which are areas deemed to be outside our territory are being opened in large numbers throughout the country. While there is no explicit provision that labour laws would not be applied in these zones, in practice, even labour commissioners are not allowed inside these zones and the workers are practically at the mercy of the employers. Neither the central nor the state governments intervene to protect the interests of the workers. The workers in the informal sector, a large number of who are women, have no job security. Work is often unskilled or low skilled and low paid. Availability of work is irregular; when work is available, they have to work for long hours. However the concerned governments choose to ignore this open flouting of the labour laws.
The Factories Act, The Mines Act, The Dock Workers’ Act etc. are some of the laws, which contain provisions for regulating the health of the workers in an establishment. The Employees’ State Insurance Act and the Workmen’s Compensation Act provide health benefits and compensation to the workers in cases of ill-health and injuries etc. But in the unorganised sector where the majority of women workers are concentrated, no occupational safety and health safeguards are in place. Even in the organised sector, where these are applicable, safeguards are rarely provided for the workers, either male or female. Usually the safety devises are designed keeping the male workers in view and become unsuitable for women workers. Besides, the social aspects of work are not considered risk factors. As a result, more emphasis is given to work related accidents than to illnesses.
The problems of women construction worker in the workplace are one of the major issues in the contemporary social problems.