Research Project

Women, Work Environment and Health

Research Area : Women's health

This project intends to study the impact of globalisation (a process that began in the 1980s and continues to this day) on women's work and living environment and how their work and environment in turn affect their health. The process of structural adjustment has altered the government's priorities in the field of social welfare and funding of welfare projects. The objective of the study is to understand the impact of changes in welfare policy and in the economic sector, on the lives of women and communities. In order to understand the complexity of the situation, the project is being implemented in three case studies.

  • The first case study documents the impact of de-industrialisation on women belonging to marginalised communities in two slum settlements of Kurla, an eastern suburb of Mumbai. The economy of Mumbai is undergoing a structural transformation. The manufacturing base is narrowing, while the service sector is witnessing rapid growth. However, a large section of the working class in the city (residing primarily in the slums) is still trying to survive in the fragmented, informal industrial sector. Certain marginalised groups such as Muslims and scheduled castes cannot share in the gains of the service sector because they are politically marginalised and educationally backward.
  • The second case study is looking into the impact of capitalist farming and grape plantations introduced in Pune more than a decade ago. Big and medium farmers belonging to the landed castes invest the capital and hire labourers from the Thakur tribe possessing the specialised skills required for grape production. With the introduction of export-based cultivation, the Thakurs have been compelled to adapt their skills as well as adhere to more 'scientific' production methods. The relations of production have also undergone changes, thanks to substantial fluctuations in world market prices as well as changing preferences in the global market. The Thakurs have adapted to the new situation with some success. This is however, at some cost to their health, especially the health of women. This study records their perception of their work and health status and the manner in which the changed economic scenario is affecting their well being.
  • The third case study is on the effects of industrialisation on a predominantly agricultural community in Tamil Nadu. As part of the government's policy to introduce industries in rural areas, industrial units were set up in Chengalpet district of Tamil Nadu, originally an area of subsistence agriculture. A decade later, industries have replaced agriculture as the main source of employment in the villages surrounding the industrial estates. The younger women of the Dalit households in these villages have entered the industrial workforce in larger numbers. The transition from agricultural labour to industrial work has brought about not only economic changes, but also a social and cultural transformation. However, the industrial work available is essentially semiskilled, with neither security of service nor continuity in work. This third case study documents changes that have occurred in the nature of work as well as changes in the perception of health as a result of the new organisation of work.

Supported by: ENGENDER, Singapore Research Team:Neha Madhiwalla, Padma Deosthali, Shardini Rath, Kalpana Dixit (CEHAT), Jeyaranjan, Padmini Swaminathan (MIDS, Chennai), and Avadhut Nadkarni (SNDT, Mumbai)

Project Publications