“Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex” - Karl Marx


Ease Of Doing Business VS Human Development

Following Covid-19 and induced economic disruptions, up to 135 million people have lost their jobs and 120 million been pushed back into poverty in India, according to recent reports by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy and Arthur D Little, a management consulting firm, which estimates that disemployment 'may rise to 35% from 7.6%' pushing 40 million Indians into 'abject poverty'.

The nature of data collection prevents us knowing the exact number of migrant workers among these people. Increasingly informalised, casualised working conditions, particularly in the urban jobs worked by migrants, mean that workers' current strategies of survival - walking and withdrawing - can hardly be understood as a temporary displacement.  

A 2015 research paper pointed out that in the organised manufacturing sector, the share of owner-profits has tripled since the 1980s, from 20% to 60% of net value added, whereas the labour share has fallen by the exact same proportion.  

In almost the same period (1980s to 2012), as the study conducted by Prabhu Mohapatra points out, contract labour (workers hired indirectly through 'subcontracting') in the formalised manufacturing sector has risen from 7% to 35%. As per National Sample Survey Office data from 2011, the share of contract labour in organised manufacturing was 34% as compared with 14% in 1996.  

Where does this leave the labourers?  

It seems that the changes made to labour law by several state governments since the pandemic are based on the following grounds:  

One, due to return migration and stranded migrant workers' hesitation to undertake new work, employers have repeatedly complained of "labour shortages".  

Two, India needs to offer labour flexibility to firms quitting China in order to capture the vacated produce market space.  

Three, suspending labour laws for the next three years will help industrialists overcome the present crisis.  

Four, governments must change labour laws in favour of employers to allow them to generate employment, especially for workers returned from the cities, and to protect existing jobs.  

What appears to be a simplification of labour law is a specific kind of state initiative premised on the theory that giving free rein to big businesses will eventually boost economic growth for everyone, including workers.  

To my mind a law has usually two parts: one that deals with punishment by the state, say if a contract is breached, and the other that deals with workers' social security, which the state alone can guarantee.  

Labour protests are virtually impossible due to the lockdown. Employers have seized the moment and the state.  

The Sixth Economic Census recorded that 97 million people are employed in establishments without any hired worker, while 118 million are employed in establishments with one or more hired workers.  

Broadly speaking, the former category falls under the Shops and Establishments Act and the later with the Factories Act.  

It found that the vast majority, 172 million people, work in establishments with eight or fewer employees. Only 18 million people work in establishments with more than 100 employees.  

The new economy is not going to generate enough jobs for the millions of reasonably skilled and educated youth. Developments in automation (of software programs and robots) reduce the need for labourers even as the economic share of manufacturing shrinks in favour of services.  

While those with education degrees are better placed, employment for the vast majority will be precarious to say the least. Here emerges a new responsibility for the state: to serve and protect those who cannot find employers.  

For several years the employer's community argued that rigid labour regulation was the main reason their workers were overwhelmingly informalised. Available research studies do not support this claim.  

The International Labour Organisation in its 'Report on Decent Work and Informal Economy' notes that labour regulations are only one of many causes of an informalised workforce. Changes in patterns of production, in information and communication technologies, and global competition have also caused the growing informalisation of work and the dismantling of workers' rights.  

The 'Working Group of Experts of the Commission on the Legal Empowerment of the Poor' set up by the United Nations Development Programme found barely adequate conclusive evidence of the oft-presumed causal relationship between "rigid" labour market regulatory frameworks and informality.  

Several OECD countries with significantly more employer-friendly labour regulation have also witnessed massive informalisation of work in the last three decades. And a study of four states - Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh - by the V.V. Giri National Labour Institute in Noida found that "amendments in labour laws neither succeeded in attracting big investments, boost to industrialisation or job creation."  

The changes to labour law made by several state governments and employer organisations' demands to "nationalise" a 72-hour working week violates the cardinal principle of a 48-hour workweek mentioned in the ILO's Conventions C001 and C1919. These laws to limit working hours to eight per day and 48 per week were won after decades of struggles by workers from 1881 to 1948.  

Now in Covid India work hours have been officially extended albeit with statutory overtime pay, except in Gujarat. A 12-hour workday will mean workers spend more than half their days away from home including the unpaid time spent in under-resourced public transit. It will also reduce the participation of women in wage-work, a "gender penalty" imposed by how dangerous our cities are for women.  

The ILO calls for a transition to a "decent working time" to ensure our health and safety, a work-life balance, to create gender equality, enhance worker productivity, and to increase workers' control over their working hours.  

In essence the punitive aspects of labour law are in the hands of private business owners, and the state willingly and unconstitutionally stands as the guarantor of employer, not worker rights.  

The economic growth that emerges from this model, if it does, will be built on the backs of deeply casualised labourers. Layered systems of subcontracting will emerge to progressively dilute the responsibility of those at the top, and reduce the negotiating power of those at the foundation, leaving them with reduced wages and dignity.  

Any future crisis might be even worse. For governments to focus on the minority of formalised workers, without extending social security and dignified living to the majority informalised workers, can only lead to yet worse working conditions for yet more of us.  

These changes to labour law will also likely lead to higher occupational health and safety hazards and risks, with no appropriate protection or compensation, with the increased likelihood that these workers suffer from workplace illness, accidents or death.  

For example, excessive working hours have negative effects on workers' health including depleted immunity and a higher risk of workplace accidents.  

Employers meanwhile will engage in risky behaviour by allowing workers to work in hazardous conditions. The proposed Labour Code obliges employers to ensure a risk-free workplace, but it further assumes that employers will self-enforce these Codes, without any incentive, punishment, regulation or enforcement.  

The several recent incidents of large-scale toxic chemical spillage and boiler blast including the LG Polymer, Vishakhapatnam incident indicate that the health hazard and fatality risks of working in Indian factories have already increased tremendously, a trend that is likely to continue unless the mandatory routine inspections and safety clearances are actually enforced.  

The existing evidence shows that if we choose to let employers self-enforce labour regulations, rather than the state enforcing them as workers' laws, then employers are likely to seek rent to maximise their own profits. It is unlikely they will safeguard workers' rights if they are not even compelled to negotiate with them.  

The International Trade Union Confederation's Global Rights Index from 2016-19 gave India a rating of 5 on a scale of 1-5+, where 5 signifies "no guarantee of rights".  

Successive Parliaments have so far ratified 47 ILO conventions and 1 protocol, of which 39 are in force. But we have yet to ratify the conventions on freedom of association and collective bargaining-C 87 and C 98-which the ILO has declared to be "fundamental conventions". The non-ratification of these and other important conventions concerning occupational safety and health are a serious cause for concern.  

It further seems that state governments have consulted neither trade unions nor employers' bodies before announcing these changes. This violates India's commitment to social dialogue, as was ratified in C144, the Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards) Convention, 1976.  

Moreover, they have issued these changes via executive ordinance and not as laws enacted by the assemblies, negating the struggle for labourer rights.  

At the same time, India's jump from 130th (2016) to 63rd (2019) rank in the Ease of Doing Business index has been appreciated across all industries. Every year, whenever India tops the higher rank on EDB, our global ranking point estimate slips towards the bottom quartile in all global parameters such as hunger, peace, slavery, worst formed labour and workers' rights indexes on the lowest scale.  

The suspension of labour laws will rapidly dilute the formal economy by weakening multiple labour market securities like employment, health and safety, skills, and income. Flexi-workers with low and moderate skills will either be pushed out of the organised sector or they may be hired only for the disposable nature of their labour.  

Both scenarios will intensify informality. Workers ousted from the organised sector will rush into the unorganised sector, thus increasing the supply of labour. In the absence of adequate legal protection, wages will be driven down.  

Should "ease of doing business" imply human rights violations that de-humanise our society? Should it lead to weaking worker protections and rights, thereby eroding industrial safety and our own? Why should governments allow unregulated mines, polluting industrial units to flourish and damage the health of the people and our ecology?  

Governments at both the Centre and States must answer these questions now.    


  • The Taj That is India
  • The BJP and Triple Talaq
  • Rohingya: A People Condemned!
  • 9 Key Qs Raised on First Day of Aadhaar Hearing in the Supreme Court
  • A Critical Analysis of Delhi's Human Development Index
  • 3 Army Divisions For 300 Terrorists In JK But No End to Violence: Certainly the Answer Does Not Lie in Force
  • 'It is Not the Left But the Congress That's the B-Team of the BJP'
  • Kasganj: A Story of People's Unity Fractured by Engineered Hate and Violence
  • Invisible Children Of Delhi
  • India 81 in Corruption Index, Amongst the "Worst Offenders"
  • Economists Hit Out Against Move to Privatise Public Sectors Banks
  • Tripura Trades Decency For False Eldorado
  • Syria's Bloody War
  • Pakistan And China Fill Space In Maldives Willfully Vacated By India
  • The Big Private Crop Insurance Scam: Farmers Par Premium of Rs 482, Receive Rs 5 as Insurance!
  • US Attack on Syria Violates International Law, Total Hypocrisy
  • Death Penalty Is Not The Answer To Sexual Violence: Implement Justice Verma Committee Report
  • Walls on Every Side: Trying to Get Data in India
  • The Ascent of Multi-Politics In Malaysia
  • Why the Objections to Marxism are Mistaken
  • The Rise and Fall of the Malaysian Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim
  • BDS Has Placed Israel on Notice
  • Can We Promote Peace in India, Today?
  • Burying The Two-State Solution
  • Corruption And Class Rule
  • Is Ethnic Cleansing Coming to India
  • Our Real Heroes
  • Confronting Journalism's Misogynistic Trolls
  • After 17 Years of War, A Peace Movement Grows in Afghanistan
  • Taking Play Seriously: Time to Make Sports A Fundamental Right!
  • Law Commission Publishes Consultation Paper on Sedition
  • Foreign Policy: Between Folly and Foibles
  • Suu Kyi's Continued Denial And Bangladesh's
  • Economy Crumbles as Fuel Prices Skyrocket, Household Budgets Hit
  • Rupee's New Low: A Dangerous Drift
  • Are We Still Ruled by The British?
  • From Anti-National to Urban Naxal: The Trajectory of Dissent in India
  • Learning the Power of Lies: Facts vs. Falsehoods in the Age of Trump
  • The Indian Economy is in a Tailspin
  • China Walks a Tightrope on The Uighur Muslim Issue
  • Is Ram Mandir a Mere Election Strategy of the BJP?
  • The Harsher Counters of India's Drug Legislations
  • BJP's Election Strategy: Data is the New Opium
  • Geographical Indication - India's Untapped Resource
  • Climate Change to Make Prediction of Furious Storms More Difficult
  • Mountain echoes for India
  • Maldives: Has the Wheel Turned Full Circle?
  • President Sirisena Needs to be Reached Sooner Rather Than Later
  • Plastic Pollution in India
  • Prejudice by Any Name
  • 29 Years After Fall of Berlin Wall, Europe Has 1,000 Km of Walls to Stop Migrants
  • The Leftover Women of Afghanistan
  • Harmony of Music and Politics of Silencing
  • The Economics of Policy: Prohibition and Free Water Supply
  • Threat to Democracy in the Age of Social or Anti-Social Media
  • Intellectual Property- A Vital Discipline
  • What Happened in Britain, and What's Next
  • Assembly Debacle: BJP Got Taken in by Its Own Fake News
  • India: Secular Democracy or Hindu Rashtra
  • Adani is Byword for Government's Climate Inaction as Australia Gears for Elections
  • How The Modi Government is Killing Off MGNREGS
  • The Year of the Gazan
  • Assembly Polls: Ten Crucial Takeaways Ahead of 2019
  • The Real Effects of Fake Propaganda on Migrants
  • Why NGOs in Pakistan Are at The Brink of Extinction
  • Dogged by Brexit
  • In My Own Voice: Citizenship Amendment Bill And You
  • Oil Giant Shell Finally Faces Its Day In Court For Complicity In Rapes And Murders in Nigeria
  • The Geopolitics of Pulwama
  • Shah Faesal Cuts Through Calls for Blood and Lays Out a Roadmap for Kashmir
  • Modi's ABC: Avoiding, Burying, Confusing
  • The Kashmir Question: A 'Made in India' Problem
  • Opposition Must Take a Stand Against the War Politics of Hindutva
  • 'Patriotism' Made Easy in Times of 'WhatsApp Elections'
  • Urban Poor Have Set Agenda for 2019 Elections
  • Will the US End Up Putting Sanctions on Every Country That Doesn't Bend to its Will?
  • Minority and Indigenous Women Human Rights Activists More Prone to Harassment UN Report
  • Tribute to Speaker Rabi Ray (1926-2017)
  • International Participation is Necessary Where State is Part of The Problem
  • Italy Takes Belt and Road to The Heart of Europe
  • The Legacy of Shaheed-e-Azam
  • In My Own Voice: Heroes or Hiroshima
  • The Modi Years
  • Election in Israel: A Race to the Bottom
  • Why Bangladesh Overtook Pakistan
  • Digital Monopoly Platforms, Modi Regime and Threat to Our Democracy
  • Elitism and Development
  • Jawaharlal Nehru and Organised Religion
  • A Brief History of the IUML and Kerla's Muslims
  • The Immunisation of Human Rights
  • How Can India Win The Struggle on Poverty?
  • The RSS's Chanakya Neeti
  • Diversity, Belonging and Multiculturalism
  • The Chinese Ambition
  • The Role City Govts Can Play in the Health of Citizens
  • Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew: Forgotten Warrior of Our Freedom Movement
  • Fighting Climate Change, Building Resilience
  • Mridula Sarabhai(the orignal anti-national)
  • Right to Education: A Dream Half Forgotten
  • Decoding One Nation One Poll
  • Tunisia Heads for Polls Amidst Economic Slowdown, Squsbbling and Crack Down on Islamic Extremist
  • Lynchings, Litchis and No Water: What the International Media is Saying Abount India
  • Blood in the Nile
  • Will the BNP Ever Again be a Major Political Force in Bangladesh?
  • 'Real Estate Brokers' Cannot Dampen The Palestinian Spirit
  • The Indian Liberal's Conundrum
  • Hope For Democracy in Sudan
  • In Depth: Water Crisis Looming Across Tamil Nadu
  • Missing Secularism in New Education Policy
  • Religion, Nationalism And Insurgency in Balochistan
  • Dim Lights, Closed Blinds: History Lessons From a Party in Power
  • Loan Waivers Need Better Designing to Prevent Farmer Suicides
  • Makimg Best Use of Sri Lanka's Strategic Location
  • FDI in Coal: Look Who's Coming to the Party
  • Weapons and the Never Ending Space Race
  • Thirty Years the Berlin Wall Brought Down
  • Reclaiming the Opposition and Political Space in India
  • An Interreligious Conference to Build Bridges in Sri Lanka
  • On 'Correcting' History and Akbar's Invasion of Kashmir
  • The Evolution of the 'Nobel Prize' in Economics
  • Close Coordination Between Turkey and Russia in Syria
  • Sri Lanka's Election Time Promises Costly to Keep
  • The India Economy and The Cobra Effect
  • Fascism: Is Liberal Use "Trivialising" This "Destructive Phenomenon?"
  • Treating the Poor as Development Guinea Pigs
  • A Not sp 'National Education Policy: Analysis Reveals Exclusion in Education Sector
  • University Fee Hikes Pave the Way for Selling Public Assets
  • The Truth About Middle Class 'Revolutions?
  • 50 Years of US Arms Trade: The Lasting Impact on West Asia
  • India Abjures Secularism in Bangladesh's View, Will Regional Cooperation Take a Hit?
  • Amidist Resistance to "De-Tribalisation", A Look at Why Jharkhand Polls are More Critical Than They Appear
  • The Dangerous Game of Citizenship: BJP Creates Divisive Agenda Through NRC
  • Revealed: US Losing Aghan War Due to "Fatally Flawed" War Strategies and Lack of Clear Objetives
  • 'Politics and Prejudice': Can Dalit-Bahujans and left Progressives Join Hands?
  • State Power's Attempts at Rewriting History
  • Afghanista's Tumultous Fourty-Year Journey
  • Nepal: Citizen's Needs Remain Sidelined as Turbulent Game of Politics Continues
  • "Enough is Enough": Secular India Revolts Against a " Majoritarian State"
  • Looking at Cuba's Revolution 61 Years On
  • Soleimani Murder Set to Spiral Out of Control, US Expected to Pressure India Under LEMOA
  • The Rise of Digital Media and The Viral Phenomenon of "Nowledge"
  • Thus Spake JP: Beware the Writing on the Wall
  • Sri Lankan Government Must Pay Attention to Problem-Solving in the North
  • Drowning Nation Clutches at Military Might?
  • India's Neighbourhood First Policy Crumbles
  • A Gobal Assault by the Far-Right
  • Delhi Riots: Historical Patterns, Complicity of Forces Point to Planned Violence
  • Behind The Protests Defending Public Education
  • Putting The Judiciary on Trial
  • "Sanctions Are a Crime": During Coronavirus Pandemic, Sanctions Against Iran, Venezuela Causing Medical Shortages
  • Social Messiahs or Smart Entrepreneurs?
  • Justice Gogoi Joining Rajya Sabha Points to a Constitutional Crisis
  • A Russian "Plays Long Game" Firewall for Venezuela Against US Sanctions
  • RSS and the Question of Morality
  • Establishing COVID-19 Hospitals in Record Time
  • A New "Medical Internationalism" Needed: Cuba At the Pandemic Frontlines Even As Wealthy States Neglect Healthcare
  • Why They Suffer: The Human/Animal Conflict
  • More Books and Snowy Mornings
  • Statesmanship Required to Avert Constitutinal Crisis in Sri Lanka
  • Combating 'Hate Virus': Communal Forces Divide in times of Global Pandemin
  • How Biometric Authentication Has Excluded MAny From The Public Distribution System
  • Lessons From Iraq: Before Trump Sues China, US Must pay for Unjust War on Iraq
  • The American War System And The Global 'War of Error'
  • Demilitarising Patriotism in The Covid Fight
  • Muslims Need a Fair Media
  • Sri-Lanka: Shock of Covid-19 Wanes, Nationalist Sentiments Rise as Elections Approach
  • Covid-19 in Brazil: A 21st Century 'Reenactment' of the 19th Century Yellow Fever?
  • Iran's Fuel Tankers for Venezuela Sail to Safety Under 'Chinese Shield'
  • US Protests Bear Lessons For Sri Lanka
  • India and Nepal in For A Prolonged Standoff?
  • The Fifth Schedule: Tribal Advisory Councils and International Perspectives
  • The Asian American Response to Pandemic-Era Racism Must Be Cross-Racial Solidarity
  • Is Police Brutality Exclusive to the USA?
  • Libya's Future Seema to Rest on Arrangements Between Russia And Turkey
  • China's strategic Mind And Method: "Long-Term Planning" Behind Country's Geo-Political Moves
  • Returning Migrants: A Boon For Rural Industrialisation?
  • Why Refugees in Greece Are Afraid of the Word 'Camp'''
  • Black Lives Matter Movement And Its Lessons For India
  • US Provocations Trigger Tension in Sino-American Relations
  • Inclusive Representation Required In Sri Lanka's Decision-Making Bodies
  • Humanists At Risk: Demonising Dissent, Infantilising Society
  • Putin Anticipates 'Cascading Tension', Hints At Need To Rest World Order
  • Why the Neoliberal Agenda Is a Failure at Failure at Fighting Coronavirus
  • Covid-19 Underscores Importance of Local Planning
  • BRI Drive Post-Covid-19 Global Economic Recovery', Claims China
  • Are We Mainstreaming or Simply Trivialising Biodiversity?
  • Is Iran's Influence in Iraq Waning?
  • Green Economic Recovery: A Firm Commitment Required
  • Ease Of Doing Business VS Human Development
  • Provincial Councils The Best Option For A Peaceful Sri Lanka?
  • Revisiting the GDP Paradox
  • Coverange of Ayodhya Sparked "Convenient Collective Amnesia"
  • Prashant Bhushan And The Case of Contempt: "An Example of How Not to Write A Judgment"
  • Strengthening the Capacity of Gram Sabhas
  • Far Right Authoritarian Leaders Have Intensified The Pandemic in Their Countries
  • Congress And The Hindutva Campaign: "The Middle Path is Fast-Disappearing"
  • Trump Faces Backlash at Attempts to Suppress Mail-In Voting
  • Meeting the Covid Challenge to Define Our Nationhood
  • Capitalism's Political Problem: In Constant Conflict With Democracy
  • Anti-CAA Movement: How The 'OutSider' Discourse Dismisses Dissent
  • Centre Shirks Responsibility, "Abandons States" For Political Gain
  • Healing the Health System
  • Emerging Challenges for the International Labour Organisation
  • After Ayodhya, Kashi-Mathura On Temple Politics Agenda?
  • Unlike Today's Farm Bills, Even Britishers' Champaran Agrarian Bill Underwent Legislative Scrutiny
  • Science in Industry and the Academy
  • The US Supreme Court Has Never Been Liberal
  • Coronavirus Pandemic and Recessions: Disastrous for 'White Collar' Jobs
  • What Does Justice Mean Today?
  • Bihar's Political Ennui Can Only be Overcome by the Left
  • Gender Budget: Kerala Leads the Way, The Centre Should Follow
  • The Fight for Right to Information
  • Will Swing Voters Make Bihar Elections a Closer Contest Than Anticipated?
  • AMY Coney Barrett Sworn in as us Supreme Court Judge: Major Victory For the Right Wing
  • Thailand Protests - Youth Demand Greater Democratic Freedom
  • Unemployment a Key Issue in Bihar Elections
  • Capitalists Hungry For Land in Developing Countries Are a Threat to Indigenous Communities
  • Signals From Bihar: BJP and Left 'Sure Winners', Congress 'Neither Here Nor There'
  • Trump Lost But May Continue to Wield His Weapons of Destructions
  • Healing Divisions Post Election is The Challenge
  • 8 'Fruitless' Talks Later: XI Refuses to Budge, Modi in 'No Mood to Ruffle Feathers'
  • A Biden Presidency Hails The Return of The 'Ancien Regime'
  • Locating Nehru's Place In History
  • Why The BJP Has Shifted Focus From 'Congress Mukt Bharat' To Regional Parties
  • As People's Distress Grows, BJP Government is Busy Else where
  • The West Asia Trump Leaves Behind
  • Ambedkar's Vision Stands In Agonising Contrast to the Babri Masjid Demolition
  • Diversity in Nation Building: Recognising the Role of The Minority
  • Farmers Turn the Spotlights on Big Business
  • America's Vaccine Paranoia
  • Afghanistan: Despite US-Taliban Agreements, Peace Remains Elusive
  • Kisan Protests Are More About Survival of the Peasantry
  • Kamalji - Goodbye My Friend!
  • Condolence Message for Mr Kamal Morarka
  • Global dynamics in 2021
  • Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan: Muslims for Composite Indian Nationalism
  • Rajapaksas Regime Under Multiple Pressures
  • Coup Attempt in Jordan Leaves a Trail
  • What Kind of Political Candidates Did Gandhi Hope Voters Would Support?
  • Are Indian Students Losing Out on Past History as Textbooks are Being Changed?