Pakistan Institute of Development Economics



U. Kalpagam. Labour and Gender: Survival in Urban India. New Delhi: Sage Publications. 1994.300 pp.Index. Hardbound. Indian Rs 285.00.
Author: Hina Nazli

There is increasing realisation that the development of a society depends crucially on the development of its human capital. It is the quality, potential, and efficiency of each person in the society that determines the pace of development. The exploitation of the inherent potential of the manpower to its fullest is a sine qua non of the successful exploitation of all the other resources. It is only of late that the profession has started focusing on the issues of gender. The book under review provides a deep insight into these issues in the context of labour and survival amongst urban workers in an Indian state. Its main theme is labour and gender. However, because at subsistence levels of living the objective is not to maximise utility but to maximise the chances of survival, the issues take on a third dimension. In traditional India, like other male-dominated, chauvinistic societies, gender roles were strictly defined. Females were assigned the responsibility of housework, whereas the males fulfilled the financial needs of the family. Lately, the traditional role of women in Indian society is changing. Increasing numbers of women are working in the formal and informal sectors as wage-earners. This book focuses on the problems faced by poor working women in the urban informal sector. Gender, as an analytical category of work, and survival, which has been ignored in most social research, provide interesting dimensions to the urban labour problem. In this regard, the author examines the role of planning and its effect on women workers in urban India, and studies the interaction between the state, the market, and the household. She suggests that the state should intervene in regulating the market forces to assure the survival of the very poor.

Hina Nazli

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