Workshop 1 : Labour Dynamics in India (Winter School 2018)

Workshop 1

Labour Dynamics:

Conceptual, Methodological Perspectives and Focus on India


  • Christophe Jalil Nordman, Economist (IRD, French Institute of Pondicherry and DIAL, Puducherry)

Invited Tutors:

  • Senthil Babu, Historian (French Institute of Pondicherry, Puducherry)
  • Sébastien Michiels, Socio-Economist (French Institute of Pondicherry, Puducherry)
  • Laure Pasquier-Doumer, Economist (IRD, DIAL, France)
  • M. Vijayabaskar, Economist (Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai)


Only recently, international organisations placed labour in the spotlight of development research and policymaking (UNESCO, 2012; World Development Report 2013; Filmer et Fox, 2014; OECD, 2017). However, the past decades have not seen massive development of academic and policy studies on the various dimensions of labour. This is mainly due to scarcity of appropriate high-quality employment data in developing countries. Availability of data on employment in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), but also in some South Asian and South-East Asian countries, is particularly poor (Margolis, Newhouse and Weber, 2010). For instance, the annual report on employment produced by the ILO (2010) showed that, for the period 1991-2008, only 11 out of 45 SSA countries, and 16 out of 29 Asian countries, were able to provide statistics on unemployment for at least 3 years, while 16 countries were unable to compile even new employment data for the entire period. Not surprisingly, Labour Force Surveys (LFS) from some of the poorest developing countries were virtually absent, even though these types of surveys already constituted the main source of data for this field of research in the rest of the world.

The scarcity of appropriate representative surveys from developing countries made it difficult for researchers to analyse some of the most interesting and policy-relevant issues that make these countries’ labour starkly different from that in developed countries (Dimova and Nordman, 2014). First, there are institutional issues such as weak labour protection and social security, as well as problematic taxation and its links to corruption, which create a wedge between formal, informal employment and subsequently labour productivity and worker welfare. The informal sector (production and employment that takes place in unincorporated small or unregistered enterprises) represents 50-80 percent of urban employment and informal employment (employment without legal and social protection) is more than half of non-agricultural employment in most developing regions, and even reaches 84 percent of total non-agricultural employment in India (Chen, 2014). Secondly, informal social networks often are the primary source of labour market information and capital for starting up small business and accessing wage jobs. In the absence of formal intermediaries in the labour market, social networks hence become employers’ sole source of information for prospective employees, thereby leading to possible reproduction of the societies’ inequalities and discriminations practices. Thirdly, there are seasonal fluctuations and other peculiarities of the agricultural labour market that make the usual 7-day or yearly reference periods used in Living Standards Measurement Surveys fairly irrelevant. Last, some categories of workers, such as domestic workers, home-based workers, street vendors and waste pickers, are often not even identified in labour statistics. In India, domestic workers, home-based workers and street vendors comprise one-third of urban employment (Chen, 2014), while standard statistics ignore the contribution of family workers, who comprise over 25 percent of all self-employed in developing countries (Margolis, 2014).

Analysing Labour Force Surveys (LFS) in developing countries is hence at the core of the analysis of labour in dynamic settings. This workshop will consist of providing the trainees with the essential tool box for working on the various dimensions of labour using LFSs, given official data scarcity and imperfections. The four days training provides knowledge on how to establish a labour profile to monitor labour conditions. This includes: formal presentations of labour transformation and dynamics in India; identifying the population of interest and collecting labour data through a case study in Tamil Nadu; understanding how to manage a survey using the statistical package STATA (including reading and using a LFS questionnaire, understanding the sampling design of the survey), producing and discussing simple labour statistics (in particular knowing which ones could be the most relevant, in particular in India); identifying vulnerable groups of workers using decent work indicators and, finally, performing basic analysis, such as manipulating earnings, decomposing unequal distribution of important indicators, and conducting basic analysis of unemployment. The workshop will end with a group work aiming at designing a research project based on the provided material.


Workshop 1 Schedule



Opening Speech

Introduction and objectives of the workshop

Presentation of trainers and participants


Concepts and tools for analysing labour in a developing country context (1)


Coffee/Tea Break


Concepts and tools for analysing labour in a developing country context (2)




An overview of labour transformation in India


Coffee/Tea break


A case study of a labour force survey: the NEEMSIS in Tamil Nadu



Measuring labour using survey data: getting started with Stata  (1)


Coffee/Tea break


Measuring labour using survey data: getting started with Stata  (2)




Analysing labour using survey data with Stata  (1)


Coffee/Tea break


Analysing labour using survey data with Stata  (2)



Designing a research project on labour issues given existing literature


Identifying the population of interest and collecting data




Group work on collaborative research project



Group work (continued)


Coffee/Tea break


Group work (continued)




Group work (continued)


Coffee/Tea break


Restitution of group work projects




Breman, J. 1996. Footloose Labour: Working in India‘s Informal Economy. Cambridge University Press, 278 p.

Chen, M. 2014. Informal Employment and Development: Patterns of Inclusion and Exclusion. European Journal of Development Research 26(4), pp. 397-418.

Dimova, R., Nordman, C.J. (eds.) 2014. Understanding the Links Between Labour and Economic Development. European Journal of Development Research Special Issue, 26(4), pp. 387-396.

Filmer, D., Fox, L. 2014. Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa. Africa Development Series. Washington, DC: World Bank. doi: 10.1596/978-1-4648-0107-5.

Guérin, I., Venkatasubramanian, G., Michiels, S. 2015. Labour in Contemporary South India. In Harriss-White B. et Heyer J. (eds.), Indian Capitalism in Development, Abingdon, Routledge.

Harriss-White, B. 2003. India Working: Essays on Society and Economy. Cambridge University Press. 307p.

ILO 2010. Global Employment Trends for Youth. Special Issue on the Impact of the Global Economic Crisis on Youth. Geneva: International Labor Office.

Margolis, D.N. 2014. By Choice and by Necessity: Entrepreneurship and Self-employment in the Developing World. European Journal of Development Research 26(4), pp. 419-436.

Margolis, D.N., Newhouse, D., Weber, M. 2010. Improving Policy Making through Better Data. Mimeo, Washington D.C.: The World Bank.

OECD. 2017. Unlocking the Potential of Youth Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries: From Subsistence to Performance. OECD Development Centre, Paris, 79 pages.

UNESCO. 2012. Youth and Skills. Putting Education to Work. Education for All Global Monitoring Report. Paris: UNESCO.

Vijayabaskar, M. 2010. Saving Agricultural Labour from Agriculture: SEZs and Politics of Silence in Tamil Nadu. Economic and Political Weekly 45(6), pp. 36-43.

Vijayabaskar, M., Kalaiyarasan, A. 2014. Caste as Social Capital. The Tiruppur Story. Economic and Political Weekly 49(10), pp. 34-38.

World Bank. 2012. World Development Report 2013: Jobs. World Development Report. Washington, DC. © World Bank.

Cite this blog post
Christophe Jalil Nordman (2018, September 18). Workshop 1 : Labour Dynamics in India (Winter School 2018). SOCIAL SCIENCES WINTER SCHOOLS IN SOUTH ASIA. Retrieved April 22, 2024, from

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1 Response

  1. Interested in the workshop

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