Organizing Informal Female Workers in India: Experiences from the Construction Industry of Mumbai

  • Kadambari Chheda
  • Anuradha Patnaik
Part of the Work, Organization, and Employment book series (WOAE)


In India, large numbers of informal workers fall outside the legal structure that guarantees basic rights to its workers. Traditional unions in India were limited to addressing the issues of formal workers, whereas large-scale informal workers were neglected. Understanding the rising issues of these workers, several informal organizations outside the purview of formal union structure, like NGOs, self-groups, MBOs, were established. These organizations were popular amongst informal workers as they had better relationships with the local community and workers. They created leadership amongst the local workers giving them advantage over other formal unions. However, low experience, proficiency, resources, skills, and political-will were the major drawbacks faced by these organizations. In a rising wave, ‘all-women’ unions too played a substantial role in uniting informal female workers in India. As women form a major share of working-class in India, these organizations have made a huge impact on the overall working-class struggle in the different parts of the country. The present study attempted to comprehend on such ‘all-women’ organization unifying numerous female construction workers in the Mumbai city. The chapter briefly discusses various steps taken by the organization to create collective actions for empowering female members such as providing advocacy, creating female leadership, raising gender-specific work rights, building specific ‘charter of demands’ for female workers, linking the organization to various other organizations. It was largely witnessed that organization’s overall attempts has considerably assisted in improving status of female workers in the labor market and within the community. Overtime, the organization has restructured its processes to varying socioeconomic conditions and fluctuations in the institutional settings. The future prospects of such organizations largely depend on their unification with other similar organizations to increase their overall membership and learning from each other’s experiences. Also, proficient management and strong advocacy are required to withstand and strengthen the overall working-class struggle.


Construction industry Informality Labor migrants Developing countries 


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsMumbai UniversityMumbaiIndia

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