II Livelihoods and Vulnerability

Neo-Liberal Urbanization, Work Participation and Women: Comparing the Urban and Peri-urban Contexts of Delhi with Mumbai and Kolkata

Sucharita Sen

Abstract Urban spaces impacted by liberalization have not provided enough opportunities to work outside home for women. This paper compares the employment patterns of men and women in three cities both in urban cores, peri-urban areas and the residual parts of the respective states in which or adjacent to which three major metropolitan cities are located in. The paper concludes that though the urban locales of the peri-urban areas have been doing better in many respects vis-a-vis the residual states, these benefits are not distributed equally. Women are worse off in terms of work opportunities and unemployment rates in the periurban areas, and such conditions can be explained by the social and demographic changes that have taken place in the peri-urban areas around the large metropolitan cities. With a smaller household size and a lower working age-group sex ratio compared to the interior districts, the possible care burden on the adult women of the households could be a factor explaining their low work participation in these areas.

Keywords Urbanization Core and Peri-Urban Gender differences Work and neo-liberal environment

In developing countries, a substantial and growing proportion lives in or around metropolitan areas and large cities, including the zone termed the ‘peri-urban interface’. The interaction of the rural and the urban is often marked with contestations rather than smooth continuity of a transformation towards the urban.

S. Sen (*)

Centre for the Study of Regional Development, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© Springer India 2017

S.S. Acharya et al. (eds.), Marginalization in Globalizing Delhi: Issues of Land, Livelihoods and Health, DOI 10.1007/978-81-322-3583-5_8

The regions around the large metropolitan areas are often extremely vulnerable, particularly for those living in the margins of economic space, though they are in no way homogenous. They constitute the labourers, many of whom are migrants from adjoining rural areas and they have to undergo a transition in terms of entering the urban labour market, from agricultural land-based activities. In the current economic regime, the peri-urban areas around the large metropolitan regions have assumed a new dimension. The macro-growth process has become necessarily urban-centric, since the areas in and around the large cities, having better base infrastructure yield higher returns to investment. Since profits and related considerations drive the destination of the private investments, they have concentrated around the large cities in India in the post-reform period (Chakravorty 2000). Such investments entail massive changes in land-use and very often entail conversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural uses.

The transformations that take place in terms of land-use around the metropolitan cities in the post-globalization era are thus increasingly as a result of global or domestic private capital inflows. The new landscape includes large investment projects often involving “high-end” infrastructure, new industrial and service activities, the construction of new housing colonies and commercial ventures catering primarily to upper income groups. In a study that focuses on development around Hyderabad, it has been argued these are the outcome of a process of political assertion on the part of the regional government in the sphere of economic policymaking (Kennedy 2007). These policies have been successful in attracting investments from private firms, often by subdividing peri-urban spaces and increasing spatial differentiation (Kennedy 2007). The local decision-making processes, however, has weakened as a result of such larger policies and the space for a participatory and inclusive system in local urban issues have shrunk drastically. The peri-urban areas are even worse off, and are most often administratively outside the reach of the urban governance initiatives, though the land-use and resulting livelihood changes that are observed in these zones are almost entirely due to the urban-centric growth processes. In other words, the expansion of the city often alter patterns of rural natural resource use, that cause far-reaching social, cultural and economic changes for the people living in the peri-urban regions of large metropolitan cities (Narain 2009).

The work pattern changes are likely to have a gendered nature and women are expected to be impacted differently from men due to the selective nature of both cultural norms and economic opportunities. It is expected that with new and diversified opportunities for work in the urban areas that is characterized by a significant amount of flexibility in the production system of the post-Fordist era, women would find work opportunities suiting their comparatively restricted circumstances. India’s experience, however, deviates significantly from the above pattern. Not only have women’s work participation rates been historically far lower than that of men in the country, an additional matter of concern is that the overall rates have fallen consistently for the last quarter of a century (Abraham 2013; Chandrasekhar and Ghosh 2013). Explanations as prosperity-induced withdrawal driven by increases in real wage rates and education-related withdrawal for the younger age group have been offered as the primary reasons for such trends (IGAS 2012; Abraham 2009; Srivastava and Srivastava 2010; Himanshu 2011). Given the larger context of deceleration of women’s work participation rates in the country, it is important to understand whether the workspaces in the peri-urban areas offer women specific opportunities emerging out of the process of urbanization, or they expose them to new vulnerabilities not observed in other regions. Also, since the women’s burdens with their non-negotiable domestic responsibilities and care-giving role to the household is culturally rooted, on which the macroeconomic processes superimpose themselves, it is relevant to examine whether the work patterns with respect to them are more regionally embedded, or has a homogenized pattern due to the neo-liberal environment. The paper specifically looks into the gendered work characteristics, in and around the three metropolitan cities of Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai and specifically focus on work participation and wage rates vis-a-vis the states (residual) in which they are located over two period of time.

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