Labour conditions in India are a major social issue that the more the people talk about is, the less. India has had a history and is presently facing multiple challenges related to the conditions of the labourers. Out of all the challenges, the inequality in wage, health, and safety of labourers, child labour, ill-treatment of labourers, etc., is most prevalent. Paychecks are distributed unequally amongst the majority of the labourers in India. They are not given adequate and required health facilities like paid leaves or any health benefits employees get. Labourers play a vital role in all sectors, especially with the competition in the market; skilled, productive, and motivated labour is in demand. 

This year due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the labourers had to fight for survival, and their rights needed to be protected more than ever. Workers have very little social security in society.  CMIE data shows that more than half a million workers, mostly from the unorganized sector, have been unemployed. The pandemic has brought out the real conditions of the labourers out in the open. With COVID-19, there has been a reduction in security state after state that is provided to the workers. Labourers have been living in fear because if they happen to get the virus, they do not have the money to treat it. All big businesses are demanding the lifting of the lockdown without making provisions for the labourers and workers’ safety.  

“Most of the clothes are made in a place where workers’ rights are non-existent. Fast fashion industries are growing at a tremendous rate as they produce and manufacture goods at an extremely affordable price and create a vast consumer base. This increase is because these fast fashion industries exploit their labour. The fast-fashion brands have built a kingdom based on poor and penurious women and children. These fast fashion companies provide the goods and garments from factories that employ women and children at a low wage rate accompanied by pathetic working conditions. In the top manufacturing countries like India, Bangladesh, and China, the minimum working wage is between half to a fifth of the living wage. A survey by Clean Clothes Campaign shows that in India, between the period of 2001 and 2011, the minimum wage in 2001 was $150.20, and in 2011 it was $168.67, which is less than 2% gain; in Bangladesh, there was a fall in wage in this period in 2001 it was $96.67, and in 2011 it was $91.45. In most manufacturing countries, 14-16 hours is the average working hours per day, and 7 days a week is the normal working schedule for a labourer. In India, the standard hours of working are 9 hours a day and 48 hours a week in most countries. Labourers work in an environment with no ventilation and inhale toxic substances. The infrastructure of the factories is poor, which leads to accidents and injuries; a few examples are 1,134 workers who lost their lives in a building collapse in Dhaka in 2013, 114 people were killed in a fire at a Bangladeshi firm called Tarzeen Fashion. Most garment workers are victims of sexual abuse in the workplace. According to a report by UNICEF, 170 million children are employees in the garment industry. Furthermore, countries do not have policies to protect laborers from being exploited by colossal fashion industries.  

Global Justice Labour published a detailed report of a vast and well-known fast fashion company H&M. India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Columbia reported allegations of workplace harassment and gender-based violence. A female employee in Bangalore, India, working for the supplier’s factory, reported physical abuse pressuring to meet the production target. For women, violence and abuse are confined to the workplace, commutes, and recruiters providing housing and health and safety. Workplace harassment is prevalent in India, but also in Asia; women make up a vast majority of garment workers. The New York Times revealed that the fast-fashion company Fashion Nova was endlessly exploiting Los Angeles bases sweatshops. A sweatshop is a clothing or garment factory or workshop where labourers are employed at low wages for long hours. Global Justice Labour published another report on GAP, which also depicts gender-based violence in the workplace. The report interviewed more than 251 women who worked in factories supplied to GAP; they concluded that women are victims of daily workplace harassment. 

What we can do as consumers of these top fast fashion companies is sign petitions to change the moral ethics of such companies. As moral consumers, we should refute from buying garments from these companies that engage in unethical labour practices. Consumers should raise their voices and demand transparency over production and labour conditions inside these companies and brands. Help the labourers by spreading awareness about issues like sweatshops, child labour, harassment, and more. Pressure brands to fulfill their social responsibilities. 

India has multiple labour laws for the protection of labourers, like “the payment of wage act 1936”, “Employee State Insurance Act, 1948”, “Factories Act,” “Shops and Commercial Establishments Act,” and many more. Having these laws in place and what it aims to achieve is much needed, but the equal implementation of these laws is the most important. The benefits of these laws and policies are taken by well-privileged employees of giant firms and organizations. The labour laws are necessary and made to provide good conditions in the workplace, to monitor and keep a check on equal distribution of wage and a reasonable rate, ensure that there is no discrimination on the basis of gender in the workplace, provide health and safety to the labourers. Despite there being roughly around 200 state laws and 50 central laws on labour, there is no definition of Indian labour law in India. There are too many labour laws that create unnecessary complications and are not enforced the way they essentially should have. This lays a foundation and leaves room for corruption and rent-making. I believe that there should be a single labour law with subdivisions in them for the pressing labour issues. These will make the labour law less complicated and stop any corruption that builds from these laws. Implementation of any law is of utmost importance, and the needy should benefit from it and not the privileged who take advantage of the law.

There is a need for a fundamental change in the law that will improve the status of laborers and make the workplace environment more approachable and safer. These fundamental changes should involve a humane number of paid leaves, the minimum wage rate should be increased, change in the working standards, the safety of women in the workplace, banishing child labour, and child abuse for work in factories. Laws for the majority of these problems do exist, but the implementation of the law is not at all up to the mark. The laws need to be made stringent for the well-being of society. According to the ILO report on TCFL industries, to save the cost of the TCLF, companies shift from formal labourers to informal labourers; while these formal works are included in the National wage legislation, informal workers are often not. So, the informal workers need to be covered by the national wage legislation. 


Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

Do follow me on FacebookTwitter  Youtube and Instagram.

The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems at adv.aishwaryasandeep@gmail.com

We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.

We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge

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