Workshop 1 : Labour Dynamics – Conceptual, Methodological Perspectives and Focus on India

 

Workshop 1

Labour Dynamics:

Conceptual, Methodological Perspectives and Focus on India

Coordinator:

  • Christophe Jalil Nordman

Economist (IRD, French Institute of Pondicherry and DIAL, Puducherry)

Invited Tutors:

  • Floriane Bolazzi

Sociology and Labour Studies (University of Milan, Italy)

  • 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)

Argument-Purpose

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 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; producing and discussing simple labour statistics; identifying vulnerable groups of workers using decent work indicators and, finally, performing basic statistical analysis, such as manipulating earnings and conducting basic analysis of labour indicators. The workshop will end with a group work aiming at designing a research project based on the provided material.

 


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