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Unorganised Labour has been defined by the first National Commission on Labour (1966-69) as those who have not been able to organise themselves in pursuit of common objectives on account of constraints like casual nature of employment, ignorance and illiteracy, small and scattered size of establishments and position of power enjoyed by employers because of the nature of industry etc.
The 1991 Census has classified workers in this country into two distinct categories as main workers and marginal workers. The main workers are those workers who work for the major part of the year (296 days) and marginal workers are those who work for less than 6 months (183 days). Out of a total work force of 314 million in India, about 286 million (i.e. about 91%) were main workers and about 28 million (i.e.9%) were marginal workers. The data of the Census of India has also shown that the majority of the working population is in the unorganised sector, i.e. 91% of the total population and this workforce is as yet not actively unionised. The organised sector, which generally, exists around urban settlements, accounts for only 9% of the total work force.
As per the survey carried out by the National Sample Survey Organization in the year 1999-2000, the total employment in both organized and unorganized sector in the country was of the order of 39.7 Crore i.e. around 2.8 Crore in the organized sector and the balance 36.9 Crore (about 93%) in the unorganized sector. Out of 36.9 Crore workers in the unorganized sector, there are 23.7Crore workers employed in agricultural sector, about 1.7 Crore in construction work, 4.1 Crore in manufacturing, 3.7 Crore in trade and 3.7 Crore in transport, communication and services. The Census 2001 has estimated the number of workers in the country as 40.2 Crore, out of which 31.3 Crore are main workers and 8.9 Crore are marginal workers.
Generally, we can categorised Unorganised workers under the following four classes:
- In terms of occupation
Small and marginal farmers, landless agricultural labourers, share croppers, fishermen, those engaged in animal husbandry, in beedi rolling, beedi labelling and beedi packing, building and other construction workers, leather workers, weavers, artisans, salt workers, workers in brick kilns and stone quarries, workers in saw mills, oil mills etc. may come in this category.
- In terms of nature of employment
Attached agricultural labourers, bonded labourers, migrant workers, contract and casual labourers come under this category.
- In terms of specially distressed categories
Toddy tappers, scavengers, carriers of head loads, drivers of animal driven vehicles, loaders and unloaders, belong to this category.
- In terms of service categories
Midwives, domestic workers, fishermen and women, barbers, vegetable and fruit vendors, newspaper vendors etc. come under this category.