Women in trade unions in India Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • This paper on women in labour unions in India highlights the occupational segregation suffered by women in union structures. The authors explore and document the extent of female participation in trade unions in India. They suggest that less than 8 per cent of the 380 million workforce in India are unionized and women account for a very small fraction of trade union membership. They provide a number of reasons for the low female membership and participation in unions. In the occupations where women are organized, the incidence of union leadership among women varies considerably. On the positive side, the authors note that India has been a pioneer in organizing women in the informal sector such as workers’ cooperatives, self help groups such as Working Women’s Forum and Self Employed Women’s Association etc. In fact, they find that these unions are creating social unionism, thereby rewriting the meaning of trade unionism. The focus is on broad objectives of empowerment, development and fighting for their rights rather than the business unionism in North America (that is, focus on the bread and butter issues alone). The initiatives dictated by the Indian Constitution such as reservations or quotas for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes may have to be applied to labour unions and the private sector employers in the case of women in India. Policy makers and managers can learn a great deal from the theories discussed above.

publication date

  • May 1, 2002