Bringing Work Home: Women’s Organization in Urban India

Rina Agarwala, Princeton University

The vast majority of urban workers in developing countries is informal and, increasingly, female. These workers face enormous work loads both inside and outside the home, and they receive little to no protection from the state or employers. Although they form the backbone of the recent urbanization trends, surprisingly little is known about their behavior. What are they doing to help themselves? This paper examines (1) how informally employed, female workers are organizing to improve their livelihoods, and (2) what impact gender has on the strategies and effectiveness of workers' organizations. Based on The National Sample Survey on Employment in India, as well as 140 interviews with women workers in three cities in India, I show that urban informal workers are indeed organizing. However, the increasingly female composition of the workforce has shifted the focus of organized demands toward welfare benefits at home, rather than workers’ rights issues at the workplace.

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Presented in Poster Session 5: Union Formation and Dissolution, Fertility, Family and Well-being