chapter  7
18 Pages

Labour in contemporary south India

ByIsabelle Guérin, G Venkatasubramanian, Sébastien Michiels

This chapter focuses on a collection of cases studies conducted over the past ten years in coastal/central Tamil Nadu by a team at the French Institute of Pondicherry. It is well known that human development indicators in Tamil Nadu are better than in most Indian states, although average indicators conceal considerable regional disparities. Contemporary labour in the countryside is highly dynamic: workers regularly switch occupations, employment status and places of work, either over their lifetimes or on a seasonal basis. The villages studied cover a very small part of Tamil Nadu, around 20 villages located in Villupuram and Cuddalore district, known as the former south-Arcot region. One can find pockets of bonded labour migrants, but also 'post-agrarian' villages, where Dalits enjoy relative autonomy and have experienced relative social mobility over the last decades. The first major observation is the importance of non-farm, and precarious, labour. Most households combine different occupations in different places.