Contract Labour in Practice: Some Case Studies
Over this chapter, which is the mainstay of the book, we present a series of multi-sited ethnographic studies that try to capture various facets of the contract labour system in India as well as a brief ethnographic account of some sites visited in China that help in offering up a comparative perspective. The multi-site ethnography in India ranges from unskilled workers working in brick kilns of Bihar to multinational export-oriented heavy industries of the Dahej SEZ, Gujarat, with other sites, including Rudrapur SIDCUL, Uttarakhand and the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation. This account provides information pertaining to contract labour working in various contexts—especially in relation to collective bargaining, enforcement and coverage of laws and labour standards. With some exceptions (where collective bargaining is allowed to prevail), it is clear that contract workers have very little voice and manifest low skills and productivity, which is in contrast to our findings from China where institutionalised bargaining appear to have somewhat raised wages and labour standards.
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