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Legal Empowerment and the informal economy: SEWA Experience


India is rapidly developing, and equally increasing is the informal economy of the country.
Looking to the statistics of informal economy within country last 20 years has witnessed great changes in the economy. In year 1981 it was 82%, which increased up to 90% in 1990 and further, increased by 93% in 2000
Current Scenario of the informal economy in India:
 93% of workers in India are in informal economy
 60 % of women workers are in informal economy
 99.2% of all those working in agriculture are in the informal economy
 75% of all the workers in the manufacturing are in informal economy
 78% of workers in building and construction are in the unorganized sector
 98% of workers in Trade and Commerce are in informal economy workers
Contributions of the informal economy:
 92% of the labor force
 62% of the Gross Domestic Product
 50% of the Total Savings of the country
 39% of the Exports of the country
And these numbers are growing all over the world. Yet the law to protect the right of this workers informal economy is minimal or non-existent. Why? Because these workers have been invisible for too long. Because Government and Policy Makers cannot see them. Because the census does not count them. Because they are poor and illiterate. Because they are unorganized.
About SEWA
SEWA since last 34 years is organizing the women workers of the informal economy. SEWA organizes women workers into four different categories i.e.Vendors, Service and labor providers, Home based workers and Small Producers
Today SEWA has organized 11,23,452 members from the 11 states of India.
Issues of Informal Sector
The unorganized workers are the vast majority of the work force and include domestic workers, agricultural workers, share-croppers, marginal farmers, construction workers, street vendors, hamals, waste pickers and many more. The existing laws do not apply to them. Why is this? First, because the Acts as they exist today only apply to those workers who have a clear employer-employee relationship and these are less than 10% of all workers. Second, workers are not organized and hence have no bargaining power; even when laws exist, workers are too weak and too disorganized to demand them. Fourth, the laws are supposed to be implemented through the government bureaucracy which has neither the human resources nor the know how to reach the scattered crores of workers.
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