Social Scientist. v 6, no. 68 (March 1978) p. 3.


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NIRMALA BANERJEE

Women Workers and Development

THIS PAPER is concerned with some aspects of the role of women workers in India's development since Independence. Although one sees an increasing number of women nowadays working in diverse fields and in positions of importance, official statistics indicate that the two decades of development have not been very kind to women workers in general. The percentage of women in the woi k force has declined. In the organised sector, while the number of women employees in the public sector has more than doubled during the 60's, their number in the private sector has not increased particularly significantly. In the factory sector it actually declined between 1964 an ^ 1971. In. the unorganised sector also, women ^re being forced to work at consistently lower wage rates in jobs which do not provide a living and jthere are significantly more women working as unpaid family workers than men.1 ,

Although the general conclusion from these facts would be that the contribution of women to India's economic growth is a shrinking one, I want to argue that the peculiar character of women's economic activities has had a crucial .effect on .the process of development. Hitherto it has worked as a check to the disruptive and polarising effects of development as it has taken place ip India. There are, however, indications that, in future, the effects of the nature of women's work as



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