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Company and contract labour in a central Indian steel plant

Parry, Jonathan (2013) Company and contract labour in a central Indian steel plant. Economy and Society, 42 (3). pp. 348-374. ISSN 0308-5147

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Identification Number: 10.1080/03085147.2013.772761


This paper offers a descriptive analysis of the way in which the working world of contract labourers in a public-sector Indian steel plant is differentiated from that of its regular workforce. The two kinds of workers regard themselves as distinct kinds of people and are now best seen as distinct social classes. While the sociology of India has broadly accepted the manual/non-manual labour distinction as the crucial marker of the boundary between the working and the middle classes, what is suggested here is that that between naukri (secure employment) and kam (insecure wage labour) - which cuts right across that distinction and is broadly congruent with that between formal- and informal-sector employment - is a more important marker of difference. At work, the two kinds of workforce are sharply distinguished by the material rewards of their jobs and by their security and conditions of employment; outside it by differences in life-style and attitudes - a gap that has grown with the liberalization of the Indian economy. The composition of the work groups to which the two kinds of labour characteristically belong are sharply differentiated by gender, by regional ethnicity and by urban or rural residence. Interactions within the work group are again very different, while interactions between regular and contract workers are largely confined to the work itself. Outside it they are kept to a minimum, testifying to a shared sense that socially the two kinds of workforce are profoundly different.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2013 Taylor & Francis
Divisions: Anthropology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Date Deposited: 16 Sep 2013 09:13
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2024 20:00
Funders: Economic and Social Research Council, Nuffield Foundation, London School of Economics and Leverhulme Trust

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