Monday, October 6, 2008

Regional and Gender Disparity in Agricultural Wages

The present study looks at the gender and regional disparity in agricultural wages. Discrimination on the basis of ‘gender’ has been observed in all spheres of human interests including the granting of land rights by the state [Agarwal 2002], intra-household allocation of food and resources [Harris-White 1996; Cowan and Dhanoa 1983; Sen and Dreze 1989] and payment of wages and remunerations [Unni 1999].

The trends in agricultural wage rates during the post-Independence period, and analysis of the factors influencing the trend have generated considerable discussion among economists since the late 1960s. The average daily money wage earnings for all agricultural operations by agricultural labourers in rural labour household increased steadily and sharply between 1956-57 and 1977-78 for both males and females, at the all-India level and for all states [Unni 1988a; 1988b]. This rate of increase was much slower during 1964-65 to 1974-75 than during the entire period. The consumer price index for agricultural labour rose between 1956-57 and 1974-75, with a sharp rise between 1964-65 and 1974-75, and then dropped in 1977-78. Between 1964-65 and 1974-75 the daily real wage earnings of adult males had actually fallen at the all-India level and in all states except Karnataka, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. In 1977-78, with the fall in consumer price index for agricultural labour (CPIAL), daily real wage earnings for males increased above the 1964-65 level for the country as a whole and all states except Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal. The average daily real wage earnings of female agricultural labourers had remained stagnant between 1964-65 and 1974-75 at the all India level and in Karnataka and Punjab. They rose during the same period in Kerala and Uttar Pradesh and fell in the other states i.e. Bihar, Gujarat, MP, Maharastra, Orissa, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. In 1977-78, the daily real wage earnings of females rose above the 1964-65 level for the country as a whole and in all states.

Acharya (1989) attempted to construct a disaggregated agricultural wage series in India, for male and female workers separately, covering the period 1970 to 1985, for the 58 agro-climatically homogenous regions in the country, as defined by the National Sample Survey. Using the Agricultural Wages in India data, Acharya found that gender wage gap continued to be 20 to 40 per cent across different regions. The labour market has no specific gender biases in wage movement. In Punjab, the continued fall in female wages till 1977-78, could be due to the large immigration of male agricultural labourers which could have replaced the female labour. Jose (1988) provided a comparative analysis of agricultural wages in various Indian states from the agricultural year 1970-71 to 1984-85. The principal source of data used in the study was Agricultural Wages in India. During the period 1970-71 to 1984-85, it was found that among all the states the two north western states of Punjab and Haryana along with Kerala from the south showed a high average level of money wages. As for the male workers, the highest average for the year 1984-85 was reported from Haryana to be followed by Punjab and Kerala. Among the female agricultural labour, Haryana, Punjab and Kerala showed a relatively high level of wages during the period under review. Tamil Nadu reported the lowest wages throughout the period. The other low female wage states are Orissa, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Jose also attempted to capture gender disparity in agricultural wages. Up to 1984-85, female wages stayed at less than 80 per cent of the male wage rates in some 10 states. There is considerable variation across the states with regard to the incidence of such disparities. In states like Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, female wage rarely exceeded 65 to 70 per cent of the male wages while in the states like Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, they remained above 80 per cent levels. In most states, such as Bihar, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, there has been a tendency for the wage disparities to narrow down over time. To get an idea of the extent of regional variation in wages, Jose found out the coefficient of variation of money wage rates in different states for male and female workers during the years 1970-71 to 1984-85. For male agricultural labourers there appeared to have been a further decline in regional wage disparities. The coefficient of variation fell down from 38 per cent in 1970-71 and 1971-72 to 29 per cent during 1983-84 and 1984-85. In the case of female workers, there is no downward trend in the measure of disparities.

Definitions, Methodology and Data Sources

In the First Agricultural Labour Enquiry in India (1950-51), the criterion for identification of agricultural labour household was whether the head of the household worked for 50 per cent or more days on payment of wages. In the Second Agricultural Labour Enquiry (1956-57), the agricultural labour household was identified on the basis of its deriving a major portion of its income from agriculture labour. If 50 per cent or more of the income of a household is derived as wages for work done in agriculture, then it could be classified as agricultural labour household according to the new definition. Due to the change in definition of agricultural household, it was found that the number of agricultural labour households declined from 17.9 million in 1950-51 to 16.3 million in 1956-57 i.e. a decrease of 9 per cent. For the purpose of the Enquiry, the term ‘attached’ and ‘casual’ labourers were also defined. The category of attached labourers included all agricultural workers with continuous employment under contract for the last agricultural year working irregularly, seasonally and annually with or without debt-bondage and with or without time-in-allotment. Casual labourers were defined as those agricultural workers who did not have continuous employment and worked irregularly, seasonally or annually [Rao 1968].

The coverage of Agricultural Labour Enquiry was expanded to cover all labour households in the rural areas and the enquiries were termed as ‘Rural labour Enquiries’, which were conducted in 1963-64, 1974-75, 1977-78, 1983, 1987-88, 1993-94 and 1999-2000. Some of the important concepts and definitions adopted for the Rural Labour Enquiry Report are as follows:[i]
1) Rural labour: Manual labour (by person living in rural area) in agricultural and /or non-agricultural occupations in return for wages/salaries either in cash or kind (excluding exchange labour) is defined as rural labour.
2) Rural household labour: A household was classified as rural labour household if its income during the last 365 days was from wage paid manual labour (agricultural and/ or non-agricultural) than either from paid non-manual or from self-employment. Rural labour households include agricultural labour households.
3) Agricultural labour household: Households which earned 50 per cent or more of their total income during the last 365 days for wage paid labour in agriculture are treated as agricultural labour households; agricultural labour is a part of rural labour.
4) Agricultural labour: A person was treated as an agricultural labourer if he/she followed one or more of the following agricultural occupations in the capacity of a labourer on hire or in exchange whether in cash or kind or partly in cash and partly in kind:
a. Farming including the cultivation and tillage of the soil etc.;
b. Dairy farming;
c. Production cultivation, growing and harvesting of any horticultural commodity;
d. Raising of livestock, bee-keeping or poultry farming; and
e. Any practice performed on a farm as incidental to or in conjunction with the firm operations (including any forestry or timbering operations and the preparation for the market or to carriage for transportation of farm products).
(It should be noted that manual work in fisheries was excluded from the category of agricultural labour household. Further, work relating to transportation coming under the category (e) above mentioned only to the first stage of transportation from farm to the first stage of disposal.)
5) Earnings: Earnings meant payments received in cash or kind or both cash as well as kind or those that were receivable for the work done during the reference week. Earnings in kind included perquisites that a person received customarily for the work e.g. foodgrains, cooked meals, fuel, tobacco, etc., and non-recurring perquisites included housing, clothes, shoes, bonus etc.


The study uses two data sources namely the Rural Labour Enquiry Report on Wages and Earnings (RLE), and the Agricultural Wages in India (AWI). To get the gender and regional disparity in wages, the study relies on the RLE and the AWI, respectively.[i] Gender disparity in average daily earnings have been calculated for 14 major states namely Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh (MP), Maharastra, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal (WB) in four different years i.e. 1983, 1987-88, 1993-94 and 1999-2000. In the current study, the term gender disparity in wages for agricultural labour means the female wage earnings as a percentage of male wage earnings.

By using secondary data from AWI, the trend growth rate of real wage rate of agricultural labour of the 14 states namely Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh (MP), Maharastra, Orissa, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal (WB), for the time-period 1980-81 to 1996-97, has been calculated. However, nominal wage rate data for Gujarat in the year 1980-81 and Bihar in 1992-93 is not provided by the AWI. Ergo, the growth rate of real wage rate in between 1981-82 and 1982-83 has been calculated, and applying that calculated growth, the estimated real wage rate for Gujarat (Rs. 1.488) in 1980-81 has been found. Similarly, the real wage rate for Bihar (Rs. 2.012) in 1992-93 has been calculated. The trend growth rate has been calculated in the following manner.[ii]

Gender Disparity in Agricultural Wages
Table 1 shows the average daily earnings of men and women across different states in the years 1983, 1987-88, 1993-94 and 1999-2000.

From the Table 2, one gets the gender disparity in the wage earnings in the 14 major states of India. A schema (a) has been prepared to locate the states with high and low gender disparity in wages. States which traditionally have shown high gender disparity in wages are Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, whereas states having low gender disparity in wages are West Bengal and Gujarat. It is interesting to see Punjab replacing Kerala in terms of state with low gender disparity in wages in 1999-2000. However, it can be pointed out that it was only in 1999-2000 for Punjab and not in the past three rounds for any other state that female wage earnings exceeded male wage earnings. This can be due to the error in the data itself.

Regional Disparity in Agricultural Wages
It should be mentioned here that the data on wage rates for male agricultural labour for different states is not based on a homogenous category of agricultural labour. For some years, wage rates of ploughman and for the remaining years, wage rates of field labour or field man has been used, due to unavailability of wage rates for a consistent category of labour. One can consult the Table 3 to know which category of agricultural labour’s wage rate (i.e. whether it is field man, field labour or ploughman) has been used in different years for different states.

Table 4 provides the daily real wage rate of male agricultural labour. The real wage rate for a state in a specific year has been calculated by deflating the state’s nominal wage rate by the corresponding Consumer Price Index for Agricultural Labour (CPIAL) of that state in that specific year. The trend growth rates across different states and regional disparities in wage rates (in terms of coefficient of variation and Bourguignon L-statistics) have been calculated and produced in the Table 4.

The state having the highest trend growth rate of real wage rates of male agricultural labourers is West Bengal (5.23 per cent). Other states which showed higher trend growth rates in agricultural wages are: Maharashtra (4.35 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (4.03 per cent), Orissa (3.82 per cent) and Tamil Nadu (3.71 per cent). The state having the lowest trend growth rate of real wage rates of male agricultural labourers is Karnataka (1.50 per cent). States which showed lower trend growth rates are: Gujarat (1.77 per cent), Rajasthan (1.93 per cent), Haryana (2.40 per cent), Uttar Pradesh (2.53 per cent) and Bihar (2.67 per cent).

A schema (b) has been prepared to locate the states with high and low levels of real wages. States which consistently showed higher level of agricultural wages are: Kerala, Punjab and Haryana. States which consistently showed lower level of agricultural wages are: Orissa, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.

Regional disparity in agricultural wages (measured through both the coefficient of variation and Bourguignon L-statistics) showed variations but had been on the rise since 1993-94 onwards (see Chart-I).

This simple study on agricultural wages shows that states like West Bengal and Gujarat have performed well in providing gender equal wages to men and women. Kerala’s performance in maintaining gender equal wages has been poor in recent years. West Bengal has performed quite well in between 1980-81 to 1996-97 in terms of growth rate in real wage rates. Kerala, Haryana and Punjab have shown consistently high level of real wage rates, but not growth rate in real wage rates. The need for raising the minimum wages in states like Orissa, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh is of paramount importance.

[i] The definitions are taken from 43rd Round of National Sample Survey (NSS) on Employment and Unemployment.

[ii] The ALE/ RLE do not report wage rates for agricultural operations. They provide information on average daily wage earnings of agricultural labourers. Information on earnings was recorded for a week for each of the activities in which usually occupies members of the household were engaged in as wage paid labourers. The average daily earnings were arrived at by dividing the aggregate earnings for each activitiy by the corresponding number of days employment with full intensity in that activity. Payment in kind are valued at wholesale prices in the 2nd ALE and later RLEs. These data therefore do not relate to the prevailing wage rates in a region, but show only an average based on days of employment and the total wage income (Unni, 1988 a). The AWI provides data on the daily agricultural wage rate, on a month by month basis, from selected centres in the districts of different states for male, female and child agricultural labour. This annual publication has been in existence since the year 1951-52 and is the only published source availale to researchers for continuous data. AWI is a source of continuous data. It is the annual publication of the Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India. It provides wage data for the following categories of agricultural labour: (a) field labour; (b) other agricultural labour, and (c) herdsman. Field labour includes ploughers, sowers, transplanters, weeders, harvesters etc. Other agricultural activities for the labour includes load carrying, watering of fields, repairing waterways and embankments etc. The primary task of the herdsman is to collect livestock rom different owners’ houses, to take them for grazing during the day, and to bring them back to owners’ houses by the evening (Jha, 1997).
[iii] Note: The method to calculate the trend growth rate has been adopted from Nagar and Das (1994): ‘Chapter 13: Time Series Analysis’ in Basic Statistics, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, pp. 331-334.

Acharya, Sarthi (1989): ‘Agricultural Wages India: A Disaggregated Analysis’, in Indian Journal of Agricultural Economics, pp. 121-139, Vol. 44, No. 2, April-June.

Agarwal, Bina (2002): ‘Are We Not Peasants Too? Land Rights and Women’s Claims in India’, SEEDS Publication, Twenty First Issue.

Cowan and Dhanoa (1983): ‘The Prevention of Toddler Malnutrition by Home Based Nutrition Health Education’, in Nutrition in the Community: A Critical Look at Nutrition Policy, Planning and Programs (ed. by DS Mclaren), 339-356.

Harris-White, Barbara (1996): ‘Gender Bias in Intra-household Nutrition in South India: Unpacking Households and the Policy Process’ in (Ed.Haddad et al) Intra-household Resource Allocation: Method, Allocation and Policy, John Hopkins University Press for the International Food Policy Research Institute.

Jha, Praveen K (1997): Agricultural Labour in India, Vikas Publishing House.

Jose, AV (1988): ‘Agricultural Wages in India’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 23(26), Review of Agriculture, 25 June.

Nagar and Das (1994): Basic Statistics, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press.

Rao, VKRV (1968): ‘Agricultural Labour in India’, in AM Khusro (ed.) Readings in Agricultural Development, pp.475-487.

Sen, Amartya and Jean Dreze (1989): ‘Society, Class and Gender’, in Hunger and Public Action.

Unni, Jeemol (1988 a): ‘Agricultural Labourers in Rural Households, 1956-57 to 1977-78—Changes in Employment, Wages and Incomes’, pp. A59-A68, Economic and Political Weekly, June 25.

Unni, Jeemol (1988 b): ‘Changes in the Employment, Wages and Incomes of Agricultural Labourers in Rural Labour Households 1956-57 to 1977-78’, Working Paper No. 21, The Gujarat Institute of Area Planning, Working Paper Series.

Unni, Jeemol (1999): ‘Women Workers in Agriculture: Some Recent Trends’, in TS Papola and Alakh N Sharma (ed.) Gender and Employment in India, Indian Society of Labour Economics and Institute of Economic Growth, Vikas Publishing House Pvt. Ltd.


Akhil Dua said...

Myself Akhil Dua and I am working on agricultural wages in India and I want to take a time series of agricultural wages from 1970-2012.

I have data for 1971-1985 and then from 2004-10.

So can u please tell your data source so that I can use this dataset.

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