Health and Safety of Women Workers in Informal Sector: Evidences from Construction and Beedi Rolling Works in India

  • Sigamani PanneerEmail author


The empirical evidences and reports by multilateral and bilateral organizations show that major proportion of total workforce is engaged in the informal sector such as agricultural sector, construction industry, home-based work, small-scale sector. India has experienced an enormous expansion of industrial production system, without pragmatic work conditions, such as lack of information and precautions against physical, chemical and biological injuries has resulted in high rate of prevalence and incidence of occupational diseases and illnesses. India is an emerging economy with around 92% workforce in the informal sector. The existing legal enforcement in the labour sector systemically excludes the workforce in the informal sector. This paper attempts to examine the situational analysis of occupational health status, levels of health hazards, living and working conditions, wage levels and safety of women workers in the informal sector in India. The specific research synthesis has been initiated to study the occupational hazards of women workers engaged in beedi rolling (indigenous form of smoked tobacco) and construction work in India. Further, this article focuses on critical review of existing legal provisions, policies and their enforcement status and also draws relevant suggestions to improve policy measures on health and safety guidelines of women workforce in informal sector in India. It is evident that women’s work remains underpaid, unrecognized and uncounted as household income. Undernourishment of women and infants, incidence of poor maternal and child health has been attributed to lack of adequate social security measures and welfare benefits (e.g. maternity leave) to female workers in Beedi rolling and construction work. Prevalence and incidence of occupational diseases—Respiratory, Dermatological, Muscula-skeletal diseases, heat stroke, dehydration, and psychological stress are high. Policy implications and recommendations from the study will serve as evidence for necessary labour law reforms and include informal sector and female workforce, considering their substantial contribution.


Informal economy Health hazards Gender discrimination Construction worker Beedi worker Economic exploitation Social security 



This work was funded by Indian Council of Social Science Research (MHRD), New Delhi though RPR F. No. 02/233/SC/2014-15/ICSSR/RPR entitled ‘Health and Safety of Women Workers in Informal Sector in India—A Study on Beedi Rolling (Tamil Nadu) and Construction Work (New Delhi)’.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social Work, School of Social Sciences and HumanitiesCentre for Happiness, Central University of Tamil NaduThiruvarurIndia

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