Bitter Convergence: Contemporary Crisis of Labour in Rural West Bengal
Manikantha Nataraj & Soham Bhattacharya
BASE University Working Paper Series: 17/2023
Amidst a rising unemployment crisis in rural India, a pertinent concern has also been raised with respect to the working conditions prevailing in the countryside. Using two nationally representative surveys, between 2011- 2019, the study focuses on a few aspects of rural employment in the country, using the state of West Bengal as an illustration. Characterised by a stunted structural transformation of the rural economy, the conditions of employment in the state reveal two aspects of precarity. First, the predominance of self-employment as a form of employment in both farm and non-farm sectors is diagnosed with a small and petty scale of production. The returns from such petty enterprises are meagre. Second, a constant process of informalisation within the formal jobs in the rural non-farm sector have deepened the vulnerability of the workforce. These two crises together indicate a fatal process of convergence, where earnings from both, self-employment and salaried jobs, are eventually converging with the lowly paid rural casual wage work. This process of convergence of earnings is intimately related to the larger processes of immiserisation, and liquidation of entitlements of workers in the current neoliberal regime.
Keywords: Employment; Rural Labour; Working Condition; West Bengal
JEL Classification: HD5723, HD1537