Altering the Social Fabric of the Working Poor? Work and Employment Issues of Support Workers Catering to International ICT-ITES Firms in Mumbai

  • Randhir Kumar
  • Niels BeerepootEmail author


The ICT-ITES (information and communication technology–information technology-enabled services) sector has been a major driver of economic growth and employment creation in India. Extensive research has been conducted in the past decade on access to this sector, employment terms and conditions and opportunities for upward labour mobility. Surprisingly, few studies have focused on the workers indirectly engaged in the ICT-ITES sector and whether and how they are able to benefit from growth of the sector. ICT-ITES firms primarily engage temporary and contractual workers through staffing agencies or labour contractors. In particular, low-end support services (viz. security, housekeeping and cab services) are availed of on a contractual basis through specialized service providers. Based on empirical data collected in Mumbai, and using the concepts of “servile class” or “service underclass” (see Scott, A world in emergence: Cities and regions in the 21st century, 2012; Standing, The precariat: The new dangerous class, 2011), this chapter examines how employment conditions and labour standards are changing in these support services through servicing the ICT-ITES sector. Whereas the ICT-ITES sector provides a major stimulus for growth and economic upgrading in these support services, its workers firmly remain a part of the (urban) working poor. Herewith, this chapter contributes to a better understanding of the labour flexibility regime in urban India and highlights the complexities and implications of contractual work for the low-skill, low-paid job service segments.


Service underclass Contract workers Labour flexibility Support services ICT-ITES firms 



We would like to acknowledge the support of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) whose award (grant number W01.65.329.00) funded this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Tata Institute of Social SciencesHyderabadIndia
  2. 2.Amsterdam Institute for Social Science ResearchUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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