Wage rise not so fruitful for farm workers

Radheshyam Jadhav | | Updated on: Dec 06, 2021

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ILO report shows daily earnings of agricultural labourers rising just 48% over nearly 2 decades

Real average daily wages for skilled agricultural workers increased just by 48 per cent from 1993–94 to 2011–12 while for legislators, senior officials and managers, it increased by 98 per cent over this nearly two-decade-long period.

Analysis of the figures from the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) India Wage Report shows that agriculture labourers need as much support as farmers.

The real average daily wages for a skilled agricultural labourer was ₹120 in 1993-94 while it became ₹177 in 2011-12. For legislators, senior officials and managers, it increased to ₹1,052 in 2011-12 from ₹530 in 1993-94. For professionals, it increased by 90 per cent. The occupational category of agricultural labourers and fishery workers is just above that of machine operators and assemblers who got the lowest (44 per cent) increase during this period.


High & dry

However, while announcing direct income support of ₹6,000 annually to farmers in the interim Budget, the Centre left agriculture labourers high and dry though rural casual labourers constitute the single largest segment of the country’s workforce. Most agricultural workers are asset-less or asset-poor. There are 14.43 crore agricultural labourers, who constitute 55 per cent of the people involved in agriculture in India.

“The Pay Commissions were a contributing factor, which also had an impact on the wages of the private sector, particularly in the upper quintile of the wage distribution. The ratio between the best-paid occupation and the lowest ranked was 7.2 in 1993-94, increased to 10.7 in 2004-05 and declined to 7.6 in 2011-12,” the report states.

Who is better?

But the condition of agricultural labourers is better when compared to non-agriculture labourers.

Since 1993-94, casual workers in agriculture experienced higher wage growth compared to non-agricultural casual workers, the rate rising from 2.2 per cent during the period 1993-94 to 2004-05 to 6.6 per cent during the period 2004-05 to 2011-12.

The ILO report, quoting experts, states that the high growth in the construction sector GDP has resulted in demand for construction workers, which has in turn led to a scarcity of workers in rural areas and a resultant rise in agricultural wages.

Another group of experts has argued that the rise in nominal wages is due to an increase in area, production and yield of principal crops and periodic revisions of support prices. The other factors that explain the growth in real wages are the demographic transition, the impact of migration, the effect of MGNREGA and the overall fallout of social spending in rural areas, the report states.

Published on February 11, 2019
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