Exploitation of Women Labour :
An Analysis of Women's Employment in Kerala
THE CAPITALIST development in industry is usually equated to progress from domestic production units to large scale manufactories, through a process of mechanisation. But the evolution of the capitalist production organisation need not be unilinear. The stage of development of class consciousness among labour and the specificities of class struggle are important factors to be taken into account The decentralisation (or informalisation)1 of production is seen as the first strategy of capital to bypass the social limits imposed by the organised working class to the capitalist exploitation. Gender-based exploitation (both economic and extra-economic) has been the second one. This paper is an attempt to examine the changing strategies of exploitation inherent in the employment of women's labour in the industrial sector of Kerala state and to analyse the socio-political forces operating behind them.
The present paper can be broadly divided into three sections : The first . section attempts to examine certain broad theoretical aspects of women*s employment. The second one deals with certain emerging trends in the structure of employment in Kerala and in the country. The third section deals with the modus operand! of gender-based exploitation of labour under changing environment and institutional framework.
The relationship between the so-called informal structure and capital and the role of gender in employment in the informal sector have been two important areas of theoretical debate recently. The dual economy theories, the earliest in the array of theories, failed to capture the specifics of the formal-informal sector linkages. The structural linkages between the formal and informal sectors and the functional linkage of the latter with the former, and the consequent highly competetive and exploitative conditions, compels and/or enables capitalists to cheapen certain aspects of production, and workers to accept a lower wage packet.2 The extraction of surplus by the capitalists involves, lengthening the working day, worsening conditions of work etc., but the demographic response to such conditions (high fertility rates because the larger the family the more helping hands to support the family) ensures the continual growth of the surplus labour pool and of the informal sector.
^ Centre for Social Studies* South Gujarat University, Surat.