ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Caste and Labour Market

Employment Discrimination and Its Impact on Poverty

This paper estimates the extent of discrimination in employment, occupation and wages against the Scheduled Castes and its impact on poverty in urban regular salaried labour market in recent years. Discrimination in employment and wages is found to be very high in private sector and lesser in public sector. Discrimination in employment and wages leads to reduced wage income which enhances poverty of the discriminated group. The finding calls for policy reform in both private and public sectors to ensure non-discriminatory access to SCs in employment and wages.



The paper is based on some of the research findings of the ongoing study entitled “Caste, Religion and Labour Market in India: Linkages of Employment, Wage Discrimination and Poverty” undertaken by Indian Institute of Dalit Studies and funded by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (RLS). The authors thank RLS for supporting this study. The authors also thank Smrutirekha Singhari for technical support.


Persistence of caste discrimination in the labour market in employment and daily wage rate, in both the public and private sectors, is something which social scientists have now begun to recognise. Few studies have provided convincing empirical evidence on discrimination in wages in the private labour market (Madheswaran 2010; Thorat and Attewel 2007). However, these studies mainly focus on discrimination in wage rate and ignore the estimation of employment discrimination. An equally ignored aspect is the impact of discrimination in employment and wage rate on income and poverty of discriminated groups.

Concern for economic discrimination is not only because it involves denial of equal opportunities in the labour market, but more importantly, due to its adverse impact on the income and poverty of the group facing discrimination. The ultimate impact on income and poverty of the discriminated group is jointly caused by low employment and low wages, and concentration (occupational segregation) in low-earning occupations in the informal sector. The discrimination in employment results in high unemployment and low-income. Similarly, poor access to quality occupations pushes workers from the discriminated group into low-earning jobs in the informal sector. Thus, together discrimination in employment, wage, and occupation, result in low wage income which induces high poverty for the group facing discrimination. The present paper explores the neglected issue of the joint impact of discrimination in employment, wages, and occupation on the income and poverty of the discriminated regular salaried worker in the Indian labour market. The regular salaried jobs are regarded as most secure, well-paid, and meet labour standards (Fields 2011). The analysis is therefore confined to urban regular salaried workers aged between 15 and 65 years. The data from the 61st round of National Sample Survey (NSS), Employment and Unemployment corresponding to the year 2004–05 and Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), 2017–18 are used.

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Updated On : 23rd May, 2021
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