Understanding and Addressing the Inequalities Affecting Workers in Informal Sector in India



A society’s development can be judged by the quality of its women’s and children health and how fairly health is distributed across the social gamut. Women, children and some other workers in the informal sector are most deprived of healthcare needs and exposed to detrimental environments. Mainly, women and children make up the most significant proportion of the vulnerable informal workers due to a combination of factors. The vulnerable groups occupy the lowest paying informal jobs with most of the maternal and child health needs not met by the working conditions. Women and children are exposed to physical hardships, psychological ill-being and abuse. Among the vulnerable workers, women are over-represented among the informal workers and mostly lower income occupations. Many workers such as scavengers/waste pickers are the most vulnerable as they do not have an organized, supportive network. Family-organized activities are ordinary in dump scavenging, and this often involves vulnerable individuals such as women, children and the elderly and exposes them to increased health risks. It also often prevents children from having any chance of formal education. There are several factors for this vulnerability. These include irregularity in work, poor economic status, poor negotiating skills, balancing both personal and professional works, poor skills and gender bias. Economic stability of the informal sector alone may not improve their socio-economic status. This chapter discusses the inequality faced by the informal sector workers, the current situation in India and ways to address the inequities affecting workers in the informal sector.


The informal sector Inequality Gender Economic status Social security Universal Health Care 


  1. Abraham, R. (2013). Forms of informal employment and wage inequality in India: A review of trends. Economic and Political Weekly, 51, 50.Google Scholar
  2. Aggarwal, S. C. (2017). Structural change, jobless growth and ‘informalization’ of labor: Challenges in post globalized India.Google Scholar
  3. Da Silva, M. C., Fassa, A. G., & Kriebel, D. (2006). Minor psychiatric disorders among Brazilian ragpickers: A cross-sectional study. Environmental Health, 5(1), 17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Datt, R. (2007). Unorganized sector and informalisation of the Indian economy. Indian Journal of Labour Economics, 50(4), 775–792.Google Scholar
  5. Diwaker, N., & Ahamad, T. (2014) Problems and challenges faced by unorganised sectors: An Indian perspective. Google Scholar
  6. Goldar, B., & Aggarwal, S. C. (2010). Informalization of industrial labour in India: Are labour market rigidities and growing import competition to blame?. New Delhi, Manuscript: Institute for Economic Growth.Google Scholar
  7. Goldar, B., & Aggarwal, S. C. (2012). Informalization of industrial labor in India: Effects of labor market rigidities and import competition. The Developing Economies, 50(2), 141–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Holmes, R., & Jones, N. (2013). Gender and social protection in the developing world: Beyond mothers and safety nets. Zed Books Ltd.Google Scholar
  9. Holmes, R., & Scott, L. (2016). Extending social insurance to informal workers: A gender analysis. Working Paper.Google Scholar
  10. India Go, Implementation MoSaP. Annual Report 2016–17 Contribution of different sectors to Gross Value added in 2015–16. 2017.Google Scholar
  11. International Labour Office. (2013). Measuring informality: A statistical manual on the informal sector and informal employment. International Labour Office.Google Scholar
  12. Jain, K. (2012, January). Health financing and delivery in India: An overview of selected schemes. Bangkok, Thailand: Health Policy Dialogue organized by WIEGO.Google Scholar
  13. Jannet, J., & Jeyanthi, G. (2006). Pulmonary health status of ginning factory women laborers in Tirupur, India. Indian journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 10(3), 116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kumar, G. R. (2017). An analysis on the role of India’s informal economy. The Hans India.Google Scholar
  15. Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation GoI. (2014). NSS Report No. 554: Employment and unemployment situation in India, 2011–12. In Implementation SP (Ed.).Google Scholar
  16. Mohapatra, K. K. (2012). Women workers in informal sector in India: Understanding the occupational vulnerability. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 2(21), 197–207.Google Scholar
  17. Muthusamy, A. (2016). Problems faced by informal workers in different sectors in India. Indian Journal of Applied Research, 6(4), 37–40.Google Scholar
  18. Nag, A., Vyas, H., & Nag, P. (2016). Occupational health scenario of Indian informal sector. Industrial Health, 54(4), 377–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Organization IL. (2017). India Labour Market Update ILO Country Office for India | July 2017.Google Scholar
  20. Planning Commission. (2011). High level expert group report on universal health coverage for India.Google Scholar
  21. Razavi, S., Arza, C., Braunstein, E., Cook, S., & Goulding, K. (2012). Gendered impacts of globalization: Employment and social protection. UNRISD.Google Scholar
  22. Singh, A. K. (2016). India’s demographic dividend: A sceptical look. Indian Journal of Human Development, 10(1), 10–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Studies IIoL. (2014). World social protection report 2014/15: Building economic recovery, inclusive development and social justice. International Labour Office.Google Scholar
  24. Taymaz, E. (2009). Informality and productivity: Productivity differentials between formal and informal firms in Turkey. Country Economic Memorandum (CEM).Google Scholar
  25. Tessier, L., Stern Plaza, M., Behrendt, C., Bonnet, F., & St-Pierre Guibault, E. (2013). Social protection floors and gender equality: A brief overview. International Labour Organization.Google Scholar
  26. UN News. (2018). Nearly two-thirds of global workforce in the ‘informal’ economy—UN study.Google Scholar
  27. Vanek, J., Chen, M., Hussmanns, R., Heintz, J., & Carré, F. (2012). Women and men in the informal economy: A statistical picture. Geneva: ILO and WIEGO.Google Scholar
  28. The Wire. (2018). Nearly 81% of the Employed in India Are in the Informal Sector. ILO.Google Scholar
  29. Yasmin, S., Afroz, B., Hyat, B., & D’Souza, D. (2010). Occupational health hazards in women beedi rollers in Bihar, India. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 85(1), 87–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Public Health Foundation of India, Indian Institute of Public Health-HyderabadBengaluruIndia
  2. 2.Lifecourse Epidemiology, PHFIThe Wellcome Trust/DBT India AllianceBengaluruIndia

Personalised recommendations