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According to the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector--NCEUS (2007), Report on Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in the Unorganised Sector, http://nceus.gov.in/Condition_of_workers_sep_2007.pdf

  • Agricultural labourers, estimated at 8.7 crore in 2004-05, constituted 34 per cent of about 25.3 crore agricultural workers i.e., farmers and agricultural labourers.  
  • The unemployment rate for agricultural labourers by the CDS (current daily status) is quite high in rural areas by any standard; 16 per cent for males and 17 per cent for females. 
  • The underemployment of usual status agricultural labourers by CDS rates increased during the decade 1993/94-2004/05. In fact, the CDS unemployment rate was exceptionally high at 16 per cent in 2004-05.
  • The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 is the only statutory legislation, which ensures minimum wages to agricultural workers. In 2004-05, about 91 per cent of the agricultural labour mandays received wage rates below the National Minimum Wage and about 64 per cent below the NCRL minimum wage norm in rural areas.
  • The total number of agricultural workers in India has been estimated at 25.9 crore as of 2004-05.  They form 57 per cent of the workers in the total workforce. About 24.9 crore of them are in rural areas and that works out to be 73 per cent of the total rural workforce of 34.3 crore. Their share in total rural unorganised sector employment is 96 per cent while in unorganized agricultural sector it is 98 per cent. 
  • Nearly two-thirds of the agricultural workers (64 per cent) are self-employed, or farmers as we call them, and the remaining, a little over one-third (36 per cent), wageworkers.  Almost all these wage workers (98 per cent) are casual labourers.
  • Agricultural workers constituted 56.6 per cent of the total workers in 2004-05, down from 68.6 per cent in 1983. In rural areas, agricultural workers constituted 72.6 per cent of the total workers in 2004-05, down from 81.6 per cent in 1983. 
  • Farmers form a major share within the agricultural workforce though there has been a gradual decline in their percentage from 63.5 in 1983 to 57.8 in 1999-00. Between 1999-00 and 2004-05, the percentage of cultivators increased to 64.2, the highest level achieved in 15 years  
  • A comparison of employment growth rates between 1983/1993-94 and 1993-94/2004-05 shows that the growth rate of agricultural employment decelerated sharply in the last decade, from 1.4 to 0.8 per cent. Although the growth of total employment also declined from 2.1 per cent during 1983/1993-94 to 1.9 per cent during 1993-94/2004-05, this deceleration was clearly not so sharp. 
  • The proportion of households with no land possessed increased from 13 per cent in 1993-94 to 14.5 percent in 2004-05. The share of landlessness among the agricultural labourers was 19.7 per cent in 2004-05. More than 60 per cent of the agricultural labourers had sub-marginal holdings up to 0.4 hectares and that remained more or less constant over the period. Landlessness or small size of holdings forces the workers to engage as labourers to maintain their subsistence levels.

The India Labour Market Report 2008, which has been prepared by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and Adecco Institute, London,

http://www.macroscan.org/anl/may09/pdf/Indian_Labour.pdf show:


  • The percentage of self-employment varies between 30 to 70 % across states. It appears that self-employment is more prominent in less developed states as states such as Bihar (61%), Uttar Pradesh (69%), Rajasthan (70 %) have high proportion of self-employment. It is low in comparatively developed states like Kerala (42%), Delhi (38%) and Goa (34%). 
  • The patterns reveal that both male and female in self employed categories have similar demographic profile. Overall, it can be seen that across all the age categories, more rural people are engaged in self-employment than urban people. 
  • Females with lower educational attainment are more in proportion than males in the self-employed category. Overall, it appears that the majority of the self-employed have low levels of education. 
  • In terms of sectoral composition of the self employed, it can be seen that self employment is highest in agriculture, followed by trade. Together these activities constitute nearly three fourth of the total self-employed. 

Casual Labour Market 

  • At the all-India level, as per the NSSO 62nd round survey estimates, around 31 % of employment is in the casual labour market and female participation in the casual labour market is more as compared to male. 
  • The rate of absorption in the casual labour market starts to decline after 34 years, indicating that, workers with a demographic dividend have a higher rate of absorption in the casual labour market.  
  • Participation in the casual labour market reduces with improved education across gender and region. Majority of the casual labour force, is either illiterate, or just have primary level of education. 
  • Agriculture continues to be the main sector, where almost 70 % of the casual labour is absorbed, followed by the industry and service sector respectively. Comparatively developed states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Punjab have more casual labour in agriculture. Whereas in less developed states, like Rajastan, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttaranchal, the absorption of casual labour into the industry is high. 
  • Within the industry, manufacturing is the main occupation for casual labour in many less developed states. Casual labour in construction also seems to be higher in predominately less developed states. 

Population Not in Labour Force 

  • Gender composition of persons not in labour force revels that the percentage of females is disproportionately higher as compared to males across regions. 
  • The percentage of urban females not in labour force is higher than their rural counterparts. While in most states the percentage of rural females not in labour force is around 60-70%, the same figure for their urban counterparts is around 80%. 
  • A high percentage of females, belonging to the age-group of 25 to 59, are out of labour force (47-57%), while the corresponding percentage for males is negligible (1-9%). Moreover, a significant percentage of females out of labour force also have high educational qualifications. As high as 68% graduate females are not in labour force, while the corresponding figures for male is only 13%. At the post-graduate level, percentage of females not in labour force is around 53% while it is only around 10% for males. 
  • A huge proportion of females remain out of labour force due to domestic duties. Even in the working age-group of 25-59, the figure stands at around 60%. The figures are similar for both urban and rural females. 
  • State-wise distribution of persons who are not in labour force does not show much variation. The percentage figures are similar for males across states. However, there are significant variations among females not in labour force. The highest percentage of females not in labour force is in the Northern states of Delhi (92.10%) and Chattisgarh (89.50%), and the lowest is in the state of Himachal Pradesh (51.70%). 
  • The highest percentage (around 40%) of persons with disability is found within the males (higher in case of rural males), in the working age group of 25 to 60. A majority of this category is not literate. 

Unemployment and Underemployment

  • Unemployment rates are higher for urban persons as compared to rural persons. Urban women have the highest unemployment rates at 9.22% and rural women have the lowest rates at 7.31%. 
  • A state wise analysis for unemployment trends reveals that comparatively developed states such as Goa and Kerala have the highest unemployment rates of 11.39% and 9.13% respectively. Whereas lowest unemployment rates of 0.48% and 0.77% are found in less developed states such as Uttaranchal and Chattisgarh. 
  • Unemployment is highest for the age categories of 10 to 24 corroborating the view that youth unemployment is on the rise in India. 
  • The unemployment rate is seen to increase, with an increase in educational attainment and is particularly high after the secondary level of education. Unemployment rate among educated females, in both urban and rural areas, is the highest. 
  • Estimation of underemployment levels reveals that underemployment is widespread among females in general and rural females in particular. 
  • Underemployment levels calculated across the employment status shows that self–employed and casual labour categories have the highest levels of underemployment. Among the regular wage/ salaried labour, underemployment is negligible.


Employment and unemployment in Emerging Sectors

  • In terms of employment in the emerging sector, a large number of people are employed in the retail sector, which includes both the organized and unorganized labour market (7.1%).
  • Second largest labour market comprises the construction industry (5.9%). Almost 7.7 percent of the total male work force is employed in this industry. Nearly 8.7 percent of the urban and 5 percent of the rural workers are involved in this sector.
  • In the transport sector, 7.5 percent of the workers are males and only 0.1 percent are females, a pattern common to both the urban and rural segments in India
  • Employment in the IT sector is non-existent in rural areas and it appears that these sectors are pro-urban since they need educated and highly skilled workers. The pattern of employment in the media and pharmaceutical sectors is predominantly urban, similar to that in the IT and software sectors.
  • The hospitality and health care sectors seem to provide more opportunities to women.
  • In sectors like Mining, Textiles, Metals, Gems and Jewellery, Automobile, Transport and IT/BPO, the rate of decline in employment was at 1.01% for the period October – December 2008. It was lower at 0.74% in November 2008. However, the rate increased to 1.17% for January 2009.
  • All sectors barring IT/BPO (business process outsourcing), show a negative rate of growth of employment for the period from October to December 2008. The maximum decline in employment was observed in the gems and jewellery industry. The IT/BPO sector that showed a positive employment trend in the October to December 2008 period, but the December 2008 to January 2009 reported a declining rate of -1.66%.
  • The overall rate for the December 2008 to January 2009 period was (-)1.17%.
  • For the period of October to December 2008, direct non manual workers experienced a decline in employment with the gems and jewellery industry accounting for the highest at 6.17%.
  • Overall, out of all the categories of direct and contract workers, manual contract workers experienced the highest unemployment while the non –manual contract workers show a gain in employment for the period of October to December 2008. 


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