One of the primary part of the identity of every individual in the society is where people work and what kind of jobs they do. A change in the level of technology and type of work that is available has changed the social relations in a particular society. Social institutions like caste, kinship, networks, gender and religion also play an influencing role in the way work is organised and the way in which products are marketed.
It prefers to a society that is driven by the use of technology to enable mass production. It generally supports a large population with a high capacity for division of labour. Industrialisation often leads to greater equality and there are less disparities in societies with high levels of industrial development. The role of caste distinctions is reduced when people are working in factories or travelling in trains. With the decrease in the social inequalities, the economic conditions is improving and the income level is rising. There exists a direct relationship between the decline of the social evils and the growth of industrial society.
View of Theorists on Industrial Society
Social theorists like Karl Marx, Max Weber and Emile Durkheim associated a number of social features with industrialisation, such as urbanisation, loss of face to face relationships that were found in rural areas and their substitution by anonymous professional relationships in modern factories and workplaces. For them, industrialisation involves a detailed division of labour in which people do not see the end result of production process as they are producing only one small part of a product.
Also their work is repetitive and exhausting. Yet for for them, this work is better than being unemployed. Marx called such a situation alienation wherein a person is disconnected with the product he/she is producing. For them work is something that they have to do only in order to survive. They do not enjoy their work. Even that survival depends on whether the technology has room for human labour.
For the thinkers, industrialisation leads to greater equality, in some spheres. For example, caste distinctions do not matter on trains, buses or cyber cafes, but in some cases, older forms of discrimination persist. If social inequalities are reducing, economic or income inequality is growing. Often both social and income inequalities overlap, for example, upper caste men dominate in well paying professions like medicine, law or journalism and women are paid less wages then men for similar work.
As most of these thinkers wrote when industrialisation was new and machinery was assuming great importance, these sociologists saw industrialisation as both positive and negative. By the mid 20the century, under the influence of modernisation theory, industrialisation was seen as inevitable and positive and each society was seen to be on different stages on the road to modernisation. Modern society , for these theorists, is represented by the West.
Industrialisation in India
The Specificity of Indian Industrialisaton
India, as a developing country, is in many ways similar and in many ways different from the developed Western models. This can be understood with the help of following points of difference:
Kind of Work
In developed countries, the majority of people are in the service sector, followed by industry and less than 10% in agriculture.
In India, as per 1999-2000 figures, nearly 60% of people were employed in primary sector (agriculture and mining), 17% are in secondary sector (manufacturing, construction and utilities), and 23% in the tertiary sector (trade, transport, financial services, etc). According to Government of India, Economic Survey 2001-2002, presently, the share of agriculture in economic growth has fallen sharply while that of service is more than half. This indicates that the sector which employs majority of the population does not generate much income for the people. In India, in 2006-2007, 15.19% of population was employed in agriculture, 0.61% in mining and quarrying, 13.33% in production, 6.10% in manufacturing, 13.18% in trade, hotel and restaurant, 5.06% in communication, 8.97% in community, social and personal services, 2.22% in financial insurance, real estate, business services and 0.33% in electricity and water.
Number of People in Regular Salaried Employment
Another major difference between developing and developed countries is the number of people in regular salaried employment. In developed countries, majority of people are employed in regular salaried jobs. However, in India, over 50% of the population is self employed, 30% are in casual labour and only 14% are in regular salaried employment.
Organised or Formal Sector
Economists often make a distinction between organised or formal and unorganised or informal sector. According to one definition, the organised sector consists of all units employing to ten or more people throughout the year. These haver to be registered with the government to ensure that their employees get proper salaries or wages, pensions and other benefits.
They have fixed rules and regulations. Modes of payment has to be transparent on both sides, i.e., employee and employer. Employee cannot be removed from the job without prior notice, above all there is security of jobs. In India, the government jobs are popular.
Social Implications of Organised Sector
As majority of the Indian population is employed in unorganised sector, only a small size of population work in the organised sector.
The implications of such a small size are as follows:
(a) Very few people are employed in large firms. This means that only they have experience of employment in large firms where they meet people from other regions and backgrounds.
Here, organisation is defined by rules. As most Indians work in small scale workspaces, their work is determined to a large extent by personal relationships. Here the recruitment is more transparent and there are mechanisms for complaints.
(b) Very few Indians have access to secure job with benefits. Even in them two-thirds work for the government. Thus, government employment is not only popular but also has played a major role in overcoming boundaries of caste, religion and region.
(c) Since very few people are members of unions, a feature of the organised sector, people in the unorganised sector do not have the experience of collectively fighting for proper wages and safe working condition. Even though the government has made laws to monitor conditions in the organised sector, they are not fulfilled.
Unorganised or Informal Sector
Unorganised sector or informal sector consists of units that need not be registered with the government. Employees in this sector may not get proper salaries or wages, pension and other benefits. In India over 90% of the work comes from unorganised or informal sector.
Industrialisation in the Early Years of Indian Independence
The initial modern industries in India were cotton, jute, coal mines and railways. The government at that time had played major role in key sectors like defence, communications, power, mining, so that the private sector in India could successfully flourish.
In India, we have mixed economic policy wherein some sectors are reserved for government, while others were open to private sectors. But within that, the government tried to ensure through its licensing policy, that industries spread over different regions. Before independence, industries were located in the port cities like Bombay, Madras and Calcutta (Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata respectively).
But now the cities like Baroda, Coimbatore, Bengaluru, Pune, Faridabad and Rajkot have become important industrial centers.
The government also tried to encourage the small scale sector through special incentives and assistance. There were many items like paper and wood products, stationery , glass and ceramics which were reserved for the small-scale sector. In 1991, large scale industry employed 28% of the total workforce engaged in manufacture, while the small scale and traditional industry employed 72 per cent of the workforce.
Globalisation, Liberalisation and Changes in Indian Industry
After 1990, the government of India has followed a policy of liberalisation. Under this policy, the private companies especially foreign firms, were encouraged to invest in sectors which were earlier reserved only for the government, including telecom, civil aviation, power, etc.
Licenses were no longer required to open industries. As a result, many Indian companies were bought by multinational cooperation and many Indian companies were themselves becoming MNCs.
After Effects of Liberalisation
(a) After this policy, the government tried to sell its share in several public sector companies, a process which is known and called as disinvestment. With disinvestment, many government workers feared that they will lose their jobs.
(b) More and more companies are reducing the number of permanent employees and outsourcing their work to smaller companies or even to homes. For the multinational companies, this outsourcing is done across the globe, with developing countries like India providing cheap labour. As small companies have to compete for orders form the big companies, they keep wages low as well as their working conditions are often poor.
(c) India is still largely an agricultural country. The service sector i.e. shops, banks, IT Industry, hotels and other services are employing more people and the urban middle class is growing.
(d) At the same time, very few people in India have access to secure jobs and even the small number in regular salaried employed are becoming more insecure with incoming of contract labour. Now a days, employment by government is also coming down. According to economists, bot liberalisation and privatisation is associated with rising income inequality.
(e) As the secure employment in large industry is declining, the government is embarking on the policy of land acquisition for industry. These industries do not necessarily provide employment to the people of the surrounding areas, but cause major pollution.
(f) Many farmers, especially adivasis, protest at low rate of compensation and the fact they are foreced to become casual labour living and working on the footpaths of India’s big cities.
Employment Structure in India
While advertisements or employment exchange are popularly known means of finding jobs, they serve the purpose for only small number of people. They usually find jobs on the basis of personal contact, with the help of jobbers or on contract basis and through contract system.
On the Basis of Personal Contracts
People who are self-employed , like plumbers, electricians, carpenters etc, teachers who give private tuitions, architects and freelance photographers rely on personal contacts. They hope their work will be advertisement for them.
Through Contractors or Jobbers
Job recruitment as a factory worker takes a different pattern. In the past, many workers got their jobs through contractors or jobbers.
In the Kanpur textile mills, these jobbers were known as mistris and were themselves workers. They came from the same regions and communities as the workers, but because they had the owner’s backing they exercise control over workers. They also put community related pressures on the worker. Now a days, the importance of the jobber has come down and both management and unions play a role in recruiting their own people.
Many factories also employ badli workers who substitute for regular permanent workers on leave. Many of these badli workers have worked for many years for the same company but are not given the same status and security as permanent workers. That is what is called contract work in organised sector.
The contractor system was the most visible in the hiring of casual labour for work on construction sites and brickyards. The contractor went to villages for employing people in various occupations. He gave loans to them in the from of money and this loan included the cost of transport of the work site. The loaned money was treated as an advance wage and the worker worked without wages until the loan was repaid.
In the past, agricultural labourers were tied to their landlord by debt. Now, the labourers moved to casual industrial work and while still being in debt, they are not bound by other social responsibilities to the contractor. In this sense, labour is more free in the industrial society. They can break a contract and find another employer.
In India, there is a whole range of work settings from large companies where work is automated to a small home based productions. The companies increase production in following ways:
Relationship Between Manager and Worker
The basic task of a manager is to control workers and get more work out of them. There are two ways of making workers produce more. One is to extend the working hours and the other to increase the amount that is produced within a given time period.
Another way of increasing outputs is by organising work. An American, Frederick Winslow Taylor invented a new system in 1890s which he called scientific management.
Also known as Taylorism or Industrial engineering, this system stated that all work was broken down into its smallest repetitive elements and was divided between workers. Workers were timed with the help of stopwatches and had to fulfill a certain target everyday. Production was further speeded up by the introduction of assembly line. Each worker then sat along a conveyor belt and assembled only one part of the final product. The speed of work could be set by adjusting the speed of conveyor belt.
With more and more machinery, fewer people are employed. For example, in Maruti Company, the working hours are long with mechanism (Assembly line) the production has gone up, but the number of permanent jobs in the factory has gone down. The firm has outsourced all services and security as well as the manufacture of parts. Outsourcing and just in time keeps cost low for the company but the workers are very tense because if the supplies fails to arrive, their production targets get delayed. In service sector, where software professionals work is supposed to be self-motivated and creative, work is also subject to Taylorist labour processes.
Issues Related to Industrialisation
One important debate in sociology is whether industrialisation and the shift to services and knowledge based work leads to greater skills in the society. The famous sociologist Harry Braveman, argues that the use of machinery actually deskills the workers. For example, earlier architects and engineers had to be skilled draughtsmen, but now the computer does a lot of work for them.
Another one focusses on whether machinery is a danger. Both Marx and Mahatma Gandhi saw mechanisation as a danger to employment. Even though machinery helps to create production, it eventually replaced workers.
The working condition of the workers are very poor in India even though the government has passed many laws to regulate working conditions. The Mines Act of 1952 specifies the maximum number of hours a person can be made to work in a week, the need to pay overtime for extra hours of work and safety rules.
These laws may be followed by large mining firms but in small mines and quarries they are overlooked. Further, with sub-contracting , contractors do not maintain proper registers of workers. Thus, they avoid any responsibility for any accidents as well as benefits. After mining has finished in an area, the company is supposed to cover up the open holes and restore the area but this is never followed.
The workers working in underground mines face very dangerous conditions because of flooding , fire, the collapse of roofs and sides, the emission of gases and ventilation failures.
As a result many workers develop breathing problems and diseases like tuberculosis and silicosis. Workers working in opencast mines work in both hot sun and rain and face injuries due to mine blasting, falling objects etc. Thus, the rate of mining accidents in India is very high in comparison to other countries.
Migration of Workers
In many industries, the workers are migrants. In the fish processing plants along the coastline employ mostly singe women from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. Ten to twelve are made to live in small rooms and sometimes one shift has to make way for another. These migrants are young and single and especially in case of women as they become submissive workers.
In 1992, 85% of the two lakh Oriya migrants in Surat were single. These migrants have little time to socialise and whatever little money they can spend is with other migrant workers. Thus, the nature of work in a globalised economy is taking people in direction of loneliness and vulnerability. Yet for many young women, it also represents some independence and economic autonomy.
Home-based work is another important part of the economy. This includes the manufacture of lace, zari or brocade, carpets, bidis, argarbattis and many such products. This work is mainly done by women and children. An agent provides raw materials and also picks up the finished product. The home workers are paid on a piece-rate basis, depending upon the number of pieces an individual worker makes.
The process of making bidis start in forested villages where villagers pluck tendu leaves and sell it to the forest department or a private contractor who sells it to the forest department. The government then auctions the leaves to bidi factory owners who give it to the contractors. The contractor in turn supplies tobacco and leaves to home-based workers. Workers are mostly women who roll the bidis by first dampening leaves, then cutting them, filling in tobacco evenly and then tying them with thread. Therefore, the contractor pics up these bidis and sells them to the manufacturer who roasts them and puts his own brand label. The manufacturer then sells them to a distributor who distributes the packed bidis to wholesellers who sells them to local pan shops.
Strikes and Unions
In response to harsh working conditions, sometimes workers go on strike. In a strike, workers do not go to work. In lockout the management shuts the gate and prevents workers from coming. To call a strike is a difficult decision, as managers may try to use substitute labour. Further workers also find it hard to sustain themselves without wages.
The Bombay Textile Strike of 1982, which was led by the trade union leader, Dr Datta Samant, is one of the prominent strikes. The strike lasted for nearly two years. The workers wanted better wages and also wanted the right to form the union. The government refused to listen to the workers demands. After some time people started working as they were desperate and nearly one lakh workers lost their jobs and went back to village or took up casual labour, others worked in powerloom sectors in towns like Bhiwandi, Malegaon, and Icchalkaranji etc. According to the Bombay Industrial Relations Act, a union had to be ‘approved’ and only it could be ‘approved’ if it could give away the idea of strikes. The Congress led Rashtriya Mill Mazdoor Sangh was the only approved union and it helped to break the strike by bringing in other workers.