Sunday, October 29, 2006

Is it unorganised!?!?

What’s so unorganised about the unorganised sector?

Being a teacher, I always seek pleasure in asking questions (a typical trait of a freaky teacher). So, here comes the question... Hmmm! “What is the commonality amongst items like fire crackers, candles, flowers, playing cards, idols, sweets, diyas, paints, and dress material?” You guessed it right – Diwali!

Well, that was partially right (again a typical response of any economics teacher, for whom everything is either partial or relative). There is another striking commonality: most of the entities making sizeable proportion of the above items, and in turn, making Diwali the most celebrated festival are unfortunately the most uncelebrated ones, for they constitute the so called ‘unorganised sector’. From firecrackers to an item as dissimilar as sugar that goes into making of many ethnic sweets, from candles to the neighbourhood tailor (who stitches most of our Diwali attire), all constitute the unceremonious unorganised/informal sector. It is amazingly absurd that they have been branded unorganised, just because they are either unincorporated or mere household ventures and not regulated by any statutory act.

The World Bank states that more than 90% of India’s labour force is engaged in the unorganised sector. One might wonder, what is so unorganised in this sector? Over the last decade, rudimentary service providers like tailors, barbers, drivers, gardeners, domestic help, masons, plumbers, builders, painters, caterers, florists, decorators, etcetera have given a sustained growth of over 6% annually. Additionally, employment in this sector has been growing over 2%, on an annual basis. Now, contrast this with the near-stagnant employment growth in the organised sector. It is estimated that in 1999-2000, of the 400 million people employed, a whopping 372 million were in the unorganised sector, as against a mere 28 million in the organised sector. It would, of course, make more sense when one compares the employment growth over a period of time. In the eighties, approximately 275 million (out of 300 million) were employed in the unorganised sector, whereas, only 25 million were in the organised. This means, effectively and disproportionately, most of the employment burden has been absorbed by the unorganised sector.

Howsoever hard the unconnected policy maker, the unattached bureaucrat or the unconcerned law maker tries to justify that it is an informal/unorganised/unrecognised economy, they cannot rule out the fact that with time, this sector has also matured into being an indispensable and powerful engine of economic growth. Let’s acknowledge and appreciate the fact that since independence, generations after generations have been fed, bred and led by this sector, although in a blase and silent fashion. To such an extent that whenever India celebrates a ‘Grand Diwali’, those have always been their sweets, their crackers – bought, relished and cherished by/from their money – silently infusing happiness and smiles to millions of lives. One does wonder then, who still calls them unorganised?


No comments:

Post a Comment