Informal Workers' Narratives in Delhi

January 14, 2018 - January 18, 2018

"We make the city, what does the city do for us?"

Hosted by Working Peoples' Charter (WPC), and co-curated by Alliance of Indian Waste-Pickers (AIW) and WIEGO Focal City Delhi, Informal Workers' Narratives was held in Delhi, India, on two days - January 14th and January 18th, 2018.

Informal Workers constitute more than 90 per cent of the workforce in India. Despite this, they remain absent from the mainstream discourse as well as the media – their contribution unrecognized and their narratives unheard.

Both events presented a panel of workers from different trades, including domestic workers, e-rickshaw drivers, waste-pickers, street vendors, home-based workers, Hamal and other workers, showcasing their experiences, their work, and their challenges. The events aimed to shed light on the role played by informal workers in making of our cities, and how the city continues to marginalizes them.

Workers' Narrative 1.0

Workers Narrative 1.0 included a panel discussion moderated by author Mridula Koshi. Common themes emerging in the discussion with the worker panellists included a demand for respect, decent work conditions, equal pay for equal work, adequate work and income, and social security.

Shabina, a home-based worker highlighted the invisible nature of her work. As an embroiderer, she wants to learn new techniques in her profession but does not have the opportunity to do so. Pana Devi, a construction worker condemned the wage gap between men and women in her profession, stating that women often work longer hours, balancing responsibilities of the home as well, and are still paid less.

From the gender pay gap to unfair discrimination and mistrust, the discussion brought up many issues that affect informal workers in the city, but the central concern was the lack of respect and recognition of their contributions. Anil Singh, a head porter, asked why informal workers were not given any respect and mistrusted. Aarti, a domestic worker railed against the lack of respect and decent conditions in her line of work.

Read coverage of Workers Narratives 1.0 from Indian Express.

Watch video from both events:

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Video credit: The Wire

Workers' Narrative 2.0

The second event was facilitated by Gautam Bhan of the Indian Institute for Human Settlements. The workers participating belonged to different labour unions and organizations from the city, and spoke often about organizational strength and the need to build a strong platform where workers' experience finds a an authentic voice in the mainstream discourse. The event showcased many concerns but critically, it opened the door for future discussions on how the citizens of Delhi can support the improvement in informal workers’ livelihood conditions. 

Read coverage from the second event on NewsClick.

More information

Learn more about the Delhi Focal City project