Backstory - The Indian Dayworkers
16 Aug 2011
Working conditions and salaries in India are different from the ones in western countries. The official work week in India runs from Monday to Saturday, from 10am to 6pm each day. In reality, overtime is the norm and most local companies do not compensate their workers for it. The Indian work culture is immensely diverse. There are major differences depending on whether you work for small, local companies, for big Indian corporations or for international companies. Business practices also vary between regions.
The importance of hierarchies in Indian culture can also be witnessed in the daily work environment. People of different management levels are treated differently. The behaviour of superiors towards other employees seems very rude from a Western point of view. The rude working behaviour is normal in India. Even though that it might make people uncomfortable at first, people need to adapt to this as otherwise employees of lower hierarchy levels will try to take advantage of your kindness.
Average salaries in India are only a fraction of Western salaries. However, they are rising at rates between 12 and 14 percent each year. Wages provides only a minimal standard of living for a worker and were inadequate to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family. Indian salaries are stated in lakhs, increments of hundreds of thousands.
Construction workers are unskilled and illiterate workers, which make them very vulnerable to exploitation. Being part of an unorganized and fragmented sector their bargaining power is low and they can't easily fight against injustice. Dayworkers are often not paid minimum wages and even the agreed wages are not paid in time. Moreover, their working time and hours are not well regulated and they do not get paid when they work overtime. Leave facilities are hardly ever available for the construction workers and holiday policy are rare. The working hours of the construction laborers varied considerably but most of them work as much as 8 to 11 hours a day.
The working conditions and the facilities provided at the sites are far from satisfactory. Most of the companies do not even provide safety belts, protection eye wears, hand gloves, shoes or helmets to their workers. India has the world's highest accident rate among construction workers. Moreover the companies are not ready to compensate employee's having injuries who are not covered by life insurance. In case of accident, there is, in general, no provision for financial and medical aid. It is up to the workers themselves to arrange for the treatment.
Photo essay by Danish photographer Kristian Bertel