Social Scientist. v 15, no. 169 (June 1987) p. 1.


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Editorial Note

THERE have been significant changes in recent years in the composition and occupational distribution of the work-force in India. Notwithstanding the allegedly rapid growth of the organised sector, employment in that sector over the seventies and the early eighties has grown at a rate which is barely above the rate of growth of population. Within the unorganised sector, as far as agriculture is concerned, the rate of growth of employment (in terms of current daily status) has not even kept pace with the rate of growth of working population in rural India. A large body of workers consequently has had to look for employment outside agriculture, and, unable to enter the organised sector, has swollen the ranks of those engaged in unorganised non-agricultural activities, not only in the urban "inforamal" sector, but also in rural areas. This has shown itself, for instance, in terms of a rise in the share of rural work-force engaged in non-agricultural activities. Many have erroneously taken this rise as evidence of great dynamism of the economy, as if it were symptomatic of occupational diversification occasioned by rapid growth; as a matter of fact, it shows just the opposite, namely that the growth-rate in the major commodity-producing sectors has been so meagre that the growing workforce has been thrown increasingly into the "sink" of informal activities;

it is noteworthy that there is a high correlation between the extent of rural unemployment in a state, and the growth in the share of non-agricultural work-force in it.

Two other trends also deserve serious attention. The proportion of the self-employed within the agricultural work-force has declined; correspondingly there has been an increase in the proportion of agricultural labourers. Secondly, within agricultural labourers, there has been a noticeable increase in the proportion of casual labourers as opposed to permanent or attached farmservants. The overall fpicture we have therefore is something like the following : while the weight of organised sector workers in the total work-force has scarcely increased in recent years, that of the unorganised sector workers clearly has, as a consequence of the combined processes of pauperisation of the peasantry and artisans, and parcelisation of holdings. These workers moreover are now subject to a much greater uncertainty of employment, owing to growing casualisation, as well as the sluggishness of agricultural ^growth that has thrown many of them into "sink^ of the informal sector where the incidence of disguise unemployment is high. There can be little doubt therefore that the overall position of the



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