77% Indians poor, vulnerable times of india 11 Aug 2007
NEW DELHI: The number of people below the poverty line may have come down, but 79% of unorganised workers, 88% of SC/STs, 80% of the OBC population and 84% of Muslims belong to the "poor and vulnerable group". That's the grim warning in the report of the Commission on the condition of unorganised sector workers. Despite high economic growth in recent years, the report notes, "they have remained poor at a bare subsistence level without any social security, working in the most miserable, unhygienic and unlivable conditions". The category "poor and vulnerable" is one used by the Commission to describe all those who survive on Rs 20.30 per capita per day, which is twice the poverty line, or less. The report notes that 77% of India's population falls within this bracket. That includes 6.4% who live on less than Rs 9 per day or three-fourths the poverty line level, another 15.4% who are between this layer and the poverty line, 19% who earn at best 1.25 times the poverty line and 36% who earn between 1.25 and two times the official cut-off for poverty. It, therefore, cautions that while large numbers may have technically ceased to be included in the official poor, they remain vulnerable. Analysing various factors which have a bearing on the working and living conditions in the informal sector, the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector, headed by economist Arjun Sengupta, found a close correlation with illiteracy. The NCEUS, that formally announced its findings on Thursday, noted that "the illiterate have a very high probability of being poor or vulnerable, almost nine out of ten, and they are predominantly unorganised workers. Even those with education up to only primary level, 83% are are in the poor and vulnerable group." Analysing the relationship between poverty and vulnerability and the type of employment among unorganised workers, the report observed that 90% of the poor were casual workers while only 10% of the higher income group were casual workers. Among regular wage workers, 66.7% were in the poor and vulnerable groups, while 33% were from higher income group. Among the self-employed, 74.7% were from the poor and vulnerable and 25.3% came from the higher income group. The report highlighted that 79% of unorganised casual non-agricultural women workers in the villages are illiterate. Poverty among casual non-agri workers in cities is higher by almost 60% compared to villages. Also, 87% of women non-agricultural unorganised sectors work for less than the stipulated minimum wages and 85% of women agricultural labourers are illiterate.