The gaping gaps in labor statistics in India.

AuthorShyamSundar, K.R.

ILO Statistical Conventions

India has ratified the ILO Labor Statistics Convention, 1985 (C. 160) in 1992 which requires the ratifying member countries to produce and update labor statistics covering several variables on a periodical basis and in such a way "as to be representative of the country as a whole, covering where possible, all branches of economic activity". India has also ratified ILO LaborInspection Convention, 1947 (C.81) in 1949 (excluding part II, which relates to services). As a ratifying country of the convention, India should have in its place a statistical system relating to labor inspection.

Further, the 19 International Conferences of Labor Statisticians have taken place so far and the recent one was in 2013 which dealt with statistics of work and employment ( and-events/international-conference-of-labour-statisticians/19/lang--en/ index.htm, accessed 27 September 2014). The 14thInternational Conferences of Labor Statisticians in 1987 dealt with strikes/industrial disputes (http:// 87B09 176 engl.pdf, accessed 27 September 2014) among others. It is not possible to keep track of the action taken by the statistical agencies in India pertaining to the deliberations in recent times. As an example, it can be said that the Labor Bureau has not taken notice of the deliberations in that Conference as there is no significant official recasting of statistics on industrial disputes by it.

Labor Statistics

Labor statistics is primarily published by two government agencies at the national level, the Central Statistical Organization (CSO) of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation and the Labor Bureau, attached with the Ministry of Labor and Employment. The comments here are on some of the labor statistics published by the Labor Bureau. In the case of these statistics, the central labor administrative agencies concern the central sphere and the state labor departments deal with the state sphere. The statistics relating to factories, earnings of workers, trade unions, industrial injuries etc. are collected statutorily and those on industrial disputes voluntarily. The statutory statistics are a part of the labor administration and derive from the respective labor laws. The validity and the relevance of labor statistics have always been questioned (e.g. Shyam Sundar, 1994); however, they have suffered severe blows in the post-reform period. The Ministry of Labor appointed a Committee under the chairmanship of Prof. L.K. Deshpande in 1999 to look into the issues relating to the improvement of labor statistics. But there is no official account of the action taken on it.

The labor statistical system was conceived during the command economy regime and in the then prevalent contexts of sectoral and the institutional composition of the Indian economy. While tremendous changes have taken place in both the institutional and sectoral composition of the economy, the conceptual and schematic basis of official labor statistics have remained virtually the same. For example, it is well known that the unorganized sector accounts for a lion's share of the total workforce. Though the Labor Bureau conducts several surveys concerning some aspects of the unorganized sector workers, there is no pattern in it. It has not created a statistical system concerning the unorganized sector and the data base that we have relating to this sector comes from the National Sample Surveys by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO).

In the case of the organized sector, the inadequacies can be demonstrated by taking a couple of industrial relations variables. For example, a number of labor protests take in the unorganized sector consequent to both the expansion of it and significant rise in the organization of these workers (Datt, 2008). Since the statistical system concerning industrial disputes is driven by the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, these protests and conflicts are not covered. It is well-known that the working class movement has undergone significant changes as new forms of trade unions and workers' organizations like National Association of Street Vendors (NASVI), non-affiliated trade unions (known as independent or enterprise trade unions) have emerged as significant players. The trade unions statistics published by the Labor Bureau is hardly helpful to understand these changes. Of course, the official data will not throw any light even on the officially recognized central trade unions, which aspect is covered by the periodical membership verification surveys implemented by the central labor machinery. The rigidities in the classificatory systems disallow any meaningful capture of the changes taking place in the organizational aspects of working class.

Trade Union Statistics

It is another story that this process is riddled with shortcomings, not the least is the litigatory obstacles stalling the processes. The latest data base concerning the verified membership of central trade unions relates to 2002 and it is a matter of concern that the researchers in 2014 still use this data base to understand a partial segment. There was not any statistics on the membership base of the Labor Progressive Federation of DMK unless it qualified to be a...

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