Social Scientist. v 17, no. 192-93 (May-June 1989) p. 22.


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JEEMOL UNNI*

Employment Strategies Adopted in Wage Dependent Households**

There is considerable differentiation among rural households in India with a substantial growth of landless households and cultivator households with small holdings. Any study of the rural economy in terms of land, labour, credit or output markets has to take account of this differentiation. It is possible to divide the households into class categories depending upon their access to land and other assets and the amount of surplus they produce. During the course of capitalist development, changes in the labour process resulting from technological progress have a direct impact on employment. The overall impact of these changes is reflected in the distribution of surplus in the economy which leads to further differentiation among the rural households.

If one accepts this broad framework to analyse the rural economy the household appears to be the more relevant unit of study as opposed to the individual. Moreover, the decisions with regard to participation in economic activities take place at the household level. However, the household itself cannot be treated in isolation; it has to be viewed in relation to its resources and place in the hierarchy of class differentiation.

A number of studies have recently focussed on the strategies adopted by households in adverse conditions to survive and the role of women in meeting the livelihood needs of the households. The severity of the situation faced by a household would depend on its position in the class hierarchy and its access to land and other assets. The economic stress on most rural households increases considerably during a year of poor monsoons and drought.

The major focus of this paper is on households dependent on wage labour either as a major or a subsidiary source of income. Casual wage work in agriculture or non-agriculture involves hard labour and was traditionally undertaken only by certain low castes. Perhaps due to this, such work is associated with low social status. Hence, generally,

* Cujarat Institute of Area Planning, Ahmedabad.

* * An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Fourth National Conference on Women Studies held at Andhra University, Waltair during December 28-31,1988.



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