Social Scientist. v 15, no. 169 (June 1987) p. 33.


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U. KALPAGAM*

Women, Informal Sector and Perspectives on Struggles

WOMEN'S STRUGGLES in the informal sector are diverse and at many levels. Primarily we see the struggles on the ideological and material fronts. For a detailed spelling out of the forms of struggle in the Indian context, we need to recapitulate the issues i elated to the informal sector in general, and to the gender specific issues related to it.

The term 'infoimal sector' has been so ovemsed, that to define it now might be considered redundant. For purposes of our discussion, I shall recapitulate what constitutes the informal sector. The informal sector here includes both the rural and the urban sections, and would encompass the categories of self-employed and wage workers in both manufacturing and service activities that are characterized by the following features—ease of entry, reliance on indigenous sources, family ownership of enterprises, small scale of operation, labour intensive and adapted technology, skills acquired outside the formal school system and unregulated and competitive market. Thus it would include workers in household production working directly or under some form of putting out system, small workshops and factories including the informal labour in the formal sector, as well as those engaged in petty occupations and all other forms of casual labour in rural and urban areas.

Evolution of the Informal Sector

There are divergent views on the evolution and role of the informal sector in Third World countries including India. Each of these views has strong ideological and political implications. Stated in a simple manner, the two views on the evolution of the informal sector are as follows. One group sees the evolution of this sector as largely arising out of excessive controls in the formal sector, and is attributed to policies of the government. In fact 'one of the defining features is 'ease of entry', implying thereby that 'entry5 in the formal sector is controlled. This , viewpoint also holds that the controls in the formal sector are effected by the power of'distributional coalitiors', of which the organized trade union movement is one. It sees these controls in the formal sector as growth retarding,

*Madras Institute of Development Studies, Madras,



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