Labour, Capital and State in Neoliberal India: Some Reflections on Recent Developments

  • Praveen Jha


This essay attempts to examine some of the core features of the world of work in contemporary India, with global capitalism as the backdrop. Among the important dimensions of the current neoliberal capitalism, the paper highlights two of these, namely ascendancy of finance capital and significant decentring of production from the North to the South and their implications for labour regimes. First, given that the core of financialized accumulation rests on circulation and speculation (through a large number of instruments) and that finance is globalized, real economy everywhere tends to come under huge pressure. Second, the share of surplus in world output during the neoliberal era has seen a noticeable increase, which through multiple channels, contributes to tendencies towards under-consumption and compression in the growth of labour demand. Third, given that finance capital has a strong antipathy to government expenditure, fiscal deficits, etc. in the context of neoliberalism, where finance is footloose and internationally mobile, nation states generally abide by the whims and fancies of finance which further exacerbates deflationary tendencies through curtailment of expenditure. Fourth, policies for the protection of labour in general social policies have become victims of the above-noted major features of neoliberal globalization. These themes are discussed in this essay with special focus on the world of work in contemporary India.


Finance capitalism Global value systems Labour reforms Social protection Trade unions 



Professor L.K. Deshpande is widely recognized as a distinguished economist, a great teacher, a remarkable institution builder and a wonderful human being. I have had the privilege of knowing Professor Deshpande for over two decades and am, indeed, grateful for his wise counsel and abundant affection over the years. I feel deeply honoured to contribute to a volume which celebrates the life and work of Professor Deshpande. As my token of gratitude, I have chosen to engage with a theme central to Professor Deshpande’s scholarship, namely the well-being of labour.


  1. Auer, Paul, and Praveen Jha. 2009. “Labour Market Reforms in India: Barking Up the Wrong Tree?” Indian Journal of Labour Economics 52(1): 71–81.Google Scholar
  2. Barnet, M., and M. Muller. 1974. Global Reach: The Power of the Multinational Corporation. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  3. CBGA. 2018. Of Hits and Misses: A Analysis of the Budget 2018–19. Delhi: Centre of Budget Governance and Accountability.Google Scholar
  4. Coe, N.M., P. Dicken, and M. Hess. 2008. “Global Production Network: Debates and Challenges.” Journal of Economic Geography 8(3): 267–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Driemiere, M. Hallward. 2017. Trouble in the Making: The Future of India’s Manufacturing Led Development. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  6. Ferguson, Niall. 2009. The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  7. Foster, John Bellamy. 2010. “The Financialization of Accumulation.” Monthly Review 62(5): 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Foster, John Bellamy. 2015. “New Imperialism of Globalized Monopoly Capital.” Monthly Review, July. Accessed on 10 March 2018.
  9. Fresht, Phil. 2017. Indian IT Set to Shed Half a Million Jobs: Reskilling and Automation the Only Way Forward. Accessed on 12 March 2018.
  10. Gandhi, Ankita, Jajati Parida, Santosh Mehrotra, and Sarmishtha Sinha. 2014. “Explaining Employment Trends in the Indian Economy: 1993–94 to 2011–12.” Economic and Political Weekly 49(32): 49–57.Google Scholar
  11. Gereffi, Gary, and Miguel Korzenniewicz. 1994. Commodity Chains and Global Capitalism. Westport, CT: Praeger. Google Scholar
  12. GoI. 2016a. Employment and Unemployment Survey, 2015–16. Chandigarh: Labour Bureau, Ministry of Labour and Employment, GoI.Google Scholar
  13. GoI. 2016b. Trade Unions in India, 2014. Chandigarh: Labour Bureau, Ministry of Labour and Employment, GoI.Google Scholar
  14. GoI. 2017. Quarterly Economic Survey, January 2017. Chandigarh: Labour Bureau, Ministry of Labour and Employment, GoI. Google Scholar
  15. Gopalakrishnan, Ramapriya. 2015. Handbook on Labour Law Reforms in India. Geneva: ACTRAV, International Labour Organisation.Google Scholar
  16. Government of India (GoI). 2006. Economic Survey 2005–06. Delhi: Ministry of Finance, GoI. Google Scholar
  17. Government of India (GoI). 2015. Employment and Unemployment Survey 2013–14 Volume 2: Youth Employment. Chandigarh: Labour Bureau, Ministry of Labour and Employment, GoI. Google Scholar
  18. Institute of Human Development. 2014. India Labour and Employment: Workers in the Era of Globalisation. Delhi: Academic Foundation.Google Scholar
  19. International Labour Organisation (ILO). 2018. World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2018. Geneva: ILO.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jha, Praveen. 2005. “State’s Growing Intolerance Towards Labour in India: A Note Based on Some Recent Developments.” The Indian Journal of Labour Economics 48(4): 897–916.Google Scholar
  21. Jha, Praveen. 2016a. Labour in Contemporary India. Delhi: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Jha, Praveen. 2016b. “Global Production Networks: Whats Labour Got to Do with It.” In Monetary Markets, Labour and Development: Feschschrift for Hansjorg Herr, Achim Truger, Eckhard Hein, Michael Heine, and Frank Hoffer (eds.). Marburg: Metropolis Verlag.Google Scholar
  23. Jha, Praveen. 2017. “Labour in Neoliberal India.” Seminar 689, January. Accessed on 12 March 2018.
  24. Jha, Praveen. 2018. India’s Macroeconomic Policy Regime and Challenges of Employment: Some Reflections on the Manufacturing Sector. Kassel, Germany: International Centre for Development and Decent Work, Working Paper 20. Accessed on 12 March 2018.
  25. Jha, Praveen, and Amit Chakraborty. 2014. Post Fordism, Global Production Networks and Implications for Labour. Delhi: Institute for Studies in Industrial Development, Working Paper 172. Accessed on 12 March 2018.
  26. Jha, Praveen, and Amit Chakraborty. 2016. “Global Production Networks and Labour Process.” In Labour in Global Value Chains in Asia, Dev Nathan, Meenu Tiwari, and Sandip Sarkar (eds.). Delhi: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar
  27. Jha, Praveen, Swayamsiddha Panda, and Satadru Sikdar. 2017. “Associational Power in India: An Exploration and Preliminary Explanations.” In Labour and Development: Essays in Honour of Professor T.S. Papola, K.P. Kannan, R.P. Mamgain, and P. Rustagi (eds.). Delhi: Academic Foundation.Google Scholar
  28. Karl, Marx, and Friedrich Engels. 1975. Collected Works, Volume 42. New York: Lawrence and Wishart.Google Scholar
  29. National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO). 2014a. Employment and Unemployment Survey (June 2011 to June 2012). Delhi: National Sample Survey Organisation.Google Scholar
  30. NSSO. 2014b. Informal Sector Conditions and Employment in India (June 2011–June 2012). Delhi: National Sample Survey Organisation.Google Scholar
  31. Papola, T.S., and P.P. Sahu. 2012. Growth and Structure of Employment in India: Long Term and Post Reform Performance and Emerging Challenges. Delhi: Institute for Studies in Industrial Development. Accessed on 12 March 2016.
  32. Patnaik, Prabhat. 2005. The Economics of the New Phase of Imperialism. International Development Economic Associates (IDEAs). Accessed on 12 March 2016.
  33. Patnaik, Prabhat. 2006. The Need of Petty Production. Accessed on 12 March 2016.
  34. Patnaik, Prabhat. 2018. “Globalisation and the World’s Working People.” Peoples Democracy XLII(42). Accessed on 18 May 2018.
  35. Patnaik, Utsa, and Sam Moyo. 2011. Agrarian Question in Neoliberal Era: Primitive Accumulation and the Peasantry. Nairobi, Cape Town, Dakar, and Oxford: Pambazuka Press.Google Scholar
  36. Roach, Stephen. 2004. How Global Labour Arbitrage Will Shape the World. Accessed on 12 March 2016.
  37. Roy, Satyaki. 2018. “On Recent Employment Trends in India.” Peoples Democracy XLII(42). Accessed on 12 March 2016.
  38. Roychowdhury, Anamitra. 2018. Labour Law Reforms in India: All in the Name of Jobs. London and New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sen, Tapan. 2017. The Code on Social Security. Delhi: Centre for Indian Trade Unions.Google Scholar
  40. Sweezy, Paul. 1994. “The Triumph of Financial Capital.” Monthly Review 46(2): 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. World Bank. 2016. World Development Indicators. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Praveen Jha
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, School of Social SciencesJawaharlal Nehru UniversityNew DelhiIndia

Personalised recommendations