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Labour data reveal depth of job distress

Toil beyond prescribed limit
According to the PLFS, 12.7% workers in rural areas and 29.9% in urban areas put in more than 60 hours a week during the April-June quarter of 2018, while the majority of rural workers put in 48 to 60 hours.

Our Special Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 09.06.19, 09:52 PM

Twelve per cent of rural workers and nearly one in three in urban areas across the country put in more than 60 hours of toil a week, an official survey has found, prompting calls for stricter enforcement of labour laws.

The Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) also concluded that 70 per cent of employees who got a regular wage or drew salaries didn’t have job contracts with their employers in 2017-18, figures a labour economist said indicated how distressed the job sector was in India.

The survey — conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation — is the first such to have brought to light that Indian workers slog longer than what the norms require them to (see chart).

Labour laws in India stipulate eight hours of work a day for six days a week while the Factories Act says workers have to put in 48 hours of work a week. It also allows for overtime, for which the employer has to pay twice the wage rate, but the work hours cannot exceed 60 hours a week.

According to the PLFS, however, 12.7 per cent workers in rural areas and 29.9 per cent in urban areas put in more than 60 hours a week during the April-June quarter of 2018, while the majority of rural workers put in 48 to 60 hours.


The survey, which covered 1.02 lakh households in 7,014 villages and 5,759 urban blocks, found that about 54.9 per cent of rural males, 18.2 per cent of rural women, 57 per cent of urban males and 15.9 per cent of urban women were part of the country’s labour force.

Among regular wage earners and salaried employees in the non-farm sector, 70 per cent had no written job contracts, the survey has found. Nearly half the number of such employees were not covered under any social security scheme either.

Professor Ravi Srivastava, labour economist from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, said the trends revealed by the survey showed that the job sector was in deep distress in India.

“The PLFS has thrown up trends of insecurity in the job sector. It shows Indian workers are made to work longer even beyond the permissible hours of work, including overtime. The work burden is increasing but 70 per cent of regular employees don’t have job contracts and 52 per cent (among them) have no social security. This means the job sector is in deep distress.”

A.K. Padmanabhan, vice-president of CPM trade union wing Citu, said the PLFS report also proved violation of labour laws by employers. “The workers are putting in over 60 hours of work a week not out of choice but because of compulsion. They are made to work for longer hours. They are not paid overtime in most MNCs and in Indian companies too.”

Such exploitation was happening in places where there is no labour union, Padmanabhan added, criticising the demand for relaxation in labour laws.

“Companies don’t want any labour union. They want relaxation in labour laws and the government is talking about such relaxation,” he said. 

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