Center For Workers Education

for building a democratic labour movement in India

Informal Sector Map of India

Informal Sector Map of India

Centre for Workers Education, New Delhi


836 million or 77 per cent of the population living below Rs.20 per capita per day


88 per cent of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, 80 per cent of the OBC population and 84 per cent of the Muslims belong to this ‘poor and vulnerable’ group
About 79 per cent of the informal or unorganized sector workers belonged to this group


Only about 21 per cent of informal sector workers belong to Middle and High Income groups
Total workforce 458 million


Informal sector workers 395 million (86 per cent)

Agriculture— 253 million

Non agriculture sector 142 million

Informal workers— 423 million (92.3 percent)

Agriculture 256 million

Non agriculture 167 million


Total workforce 458 million


Wage workers 43.5 percent

Self employed 56.5 percent workers


wage workers 35.8

self employed-64.2 percent

Non Agriculture

Wage workers  53.6 percent

self employed-46.4 percent

Informal sector

wage workers 36 per cent

Self employed 64 per cent


Formal sector

Wage workers 91.7 percent (casual-23%, regular-69%)

Self employed 8.3 percent


Almost 100 percent informal sector

Self-employed (65 per cent)

Casual workers (35 per cent)


Informal sector workers 72 per cent (out of which 63 per cent are self employed, regular wage workers (17 per cent) and casual wage workers (20 per cent)

The highest proportion of casual workers in the non-agricultural unorganized sector are from ST, SC and OBC. Muslims are also overwhelmingly concentrated in the unorganized sector, mainly in self-employed activities
Total women workers 148 million
Agriculture 107.7 million


Non agriculture 40.3 million
Formal sector 6 million (0.8 million in formal agriculture sector and 5.2 million in formal non agriculture sector)


Informal sector 142 million (106.9 million in agriculture and 35.1 million in non-agriculture sector)


Child Labour
Incidence of child labour 3.4 percent Out of school children- 34.4 percent


Agriculture sector
Marginal or small farmers (up to 2ha of land) 86 per cent (accounting for only 45 per cent of the total cultivated area) Medium and large farmers (more than 2ha of land) 14 percent (accounting as high as 55 percent of the total cultivated area in the country
Landless plus sub marginal agriculture workers (0-0.4ha): 38.4 percent

Marginal farmers (0.4-1ha): 23.4 percent

Small farmers (1.01-2ha): 18.1 percent

Medium and large farmers (more than 2ha): 20.1 percent

Scheduled castes (SC), scheduled tribes (ST) and other backward castes (OBC) form the majority of the agriculture labourers. At all India average, 14.1 percent agriculture labourers come from ST, 34.1 from SC, 36.4 form OBC and 15.4 percent from other castes
Allied Sectors
Fish workers
Employs about 5.5% of the workforce
Marrine fishing: more than 3 million workers (33 percent of fish workers) Inland fishing: more than 5 million (66 percent of fish workers)
The majority of workers in the harvesting of fish are male

The majority of workers in fish processing are females

Informal trade in fish is also dominated by women workers

Forest Workers
Forests comprise one quarter of India’s geographical area, and 95 percent ‘owned’ by the state
Around 100 million forest dwellers in India 54 million belong to tribal communities
Wage workers 10 percent Self employed 90 percent
3.8 billion person days of self-employment are generated annually through collection of non-timber forest produce
Plantations occupy only one per cent of the total cropped area

Directly employs more than 2 million workers

50 per cent of the total workers employed in the plantations are women workers
Tea Plantations are predominantly located in hills and interior areas of North-Eastern and Southern states of India-mainly in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala


Coffee plantations mainly in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala


Cardamom plantations mainly in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu Rubber plantations are spread over 5.78 lakh hectares in 16 states of the country but mainly concentrated in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The production of rubber is dominated by small holdings, which account for 91 per cent of the total production and 88 per cent of the area. Nearly 0.7 million people engaged in rubber plantations as workforce either directly or indirectly.
Non-agriculture sectors



Informal sector workers 70.25 percent


Informal sector workers 72.35 percent

Non-agriculture informal sector 110.4 million workers


Self-employed 63 per cent (68.9 million)

(Own account workers 46.2 percent; Unpaid family workers form 14.7 percent; employers employing 1-9 workers 1.9 percent)

(60.7 million are independent self employed and 8.2 million are home workers)

Wage workers 37 percent
Own account enterprises 87.4 percent of all informal sector enterprises, engage 73.4 percent of all workers engaged in all informal sector enterprises.



Establishments with 2-5 workers – 10.9 percent of informal sector enterprises and engage 19.4 percent of all workers in informal sector enterprises

Establishments with 6-9 workers form only 1.7 percent of enterprises and engage only 7.2 percent of workers in all informal sector enterprises

Women in Non-agriculture informal sector 22.5 million
Self employed 70 percent (16 million)

(37.1 percent own account workers; 32.3 percent unpaid family workers and 0.4 percent employers)

(11.2 million are independent self employed and 4.8 million are home workers)

Wage workers 30 percent
Non agriculture sector wage workers(formal plus informal sector)
74.1 percent of total workers are engaged without any formal contract


Informal non agriculture sector 95.9 percent wage workers are engaged without any formal contract

Formal non-agriculture sector 53.2 percent workers are engaged without any formal contract

Manufacturing sector
Formal sector workers
Manufacturing sector (14.98 percent of all workers)
Coke and refined petroleum products (63.74%)

Basic metals (55.46)

Radio, TV, and communication equipments (51.33)

Motor vehicles, trailers etc (47.84)

Other transport equipments (44.99)

Medical, precision and optical instruments (39.16)

Rubber and plastic products (37.88)

Chemical and chemical products (37.57)

Wood and products of wood and cork (0.98%)

Furniture manufacturing (3.89)

Wearing apparel, dressing and dyeing of fur (5.98)

Informal manufacturing sector
21.6 million self employed

(67.7 percent independent self employed and 32.3 percent are home workers. 50 percent home workers females)

25 and 30 percent of enterprises in the unorganized sector operate under contract with larger enterprises, i.e., under some system of subcontracting
Manufacturing clusters


Textile and Garments etc (Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan etc)

Gems and Jewellary  (Gujarat, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu)

Tobaco products (Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhttisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh etc)

Leather and related industries (Tamil Nadu. West Bengal and UP)

Handloom weaving (Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Tamilnadu etc)

Auto (Tamilnadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka, NCR Delhi, Uttaranchal)

Electronics (Tamilnadu, NCR Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra)

Focus Industries


By matching the most employment generating industries and those industries with higher share of informal sectors workers, following industries very clearly emerge as focus areas for organizing:

Food products, beverages and tobacco products (20.9% of manufacturing workforce, proportion of informal sector workers in food and beverages around 76 % and in Tobacco around 90 percent)

Textile and products (15.3 % of manufacturing employment, informal sector workers 87%)

Wearing apparel, dressing and dying of fur (6.2 percent of manufacturing employment; 95 % informal sector workers)

Leather tanning and dressing (2% of manufacturing employment; 90% informal sector workers)

Wood and wood products (0.6% manufacturing employment; 99% informal sector workers)

Other non metallic mineral products (6.6% manufacturing employment; 89% informal workers)

Fabricated metal products (4.2% manufacturing employment; 89% informal sector workers)

Furniture, manufacturing n.e.c. mainly consisting gems and jewellary (0.4% manufacturing employment; 97% informal sector workers)

Non manufacturing sector
Huge majority of workforce engaged in only few sectors including construction, trade, mining, and transport sectors While women self-employed workers are concentrated overwhelmingly in manufacturing (60 percent), men are predominantly in trade (42 percent)
22.7 percent male workers and 48.2 percent female workers in non-agriculture informal sector are engaged in manufacturing, 32.7 percent male workers and 15.8 percent female workers are engaged in trade and repair etc, 39.4 percent of male and 37 percent of female informal workers in formal sector are engaged in manufacturing, and 23.4 percent male and 16.7 percent female are engaged in construction
Mine workers
10000 legal mines 80000 illegal mines
Total mine workers: 2.6 million Informal mine workers: 0.88 million
Women workers 4%
Construction Workers
Only 0.4% of over 250,000 contractors- classed as medium to large firms

About 87 key players account for nearly one third share

Subcontracting a dominant practice

Second largest employer of the workforce in India after agriculture.

Total workers 40 million Informal workers   more than 90 percent
Street vendors
There are more than 34 million informal sector workers in trade including more than 10 million street vendors across India
The SCs and other backward castes are in majority 25-30 percent of the street vendors are illiterates and another 20-24 percent has only primary education
Domestic Workers
1.5 million workers engaged in household services 98 percent of them are in informal sector
Huge majority of this sector is dominated by female workers Scheduled caste, scheduled tribe and other backward caste women form a huge majority
Transport workers including riksha pullars
13 million transport workers in India 10 million are in informal sector

Level of Organizing in various sectors


Agriculture Sector
Highest numbers of organizations in India are working in the agriculture sector and their numbers are in thousands. In almost all the states there are hundreds of organizations of various types. However, there are only comparatively smaller numbers of organizations which can be really considered as grass root mass organizations of peasants or agriculture labourers and out of them only some have state level presence and only very few have a national level presence. Recently, after the implementation of national rural employment guarantee act, large numbers of rural workers organizations have emerged at local levels. It is impossible to list here the hundreds of really grass root mass organizations of peasants or agriculture labourers working at local levels. There are some state level independent organizations of farmers like Bhartiya Kishan union in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and some other states, and the similar organizations in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka mainly focus on the demands related to remunerative prices. There are other organizations of peasants that focus mainly on poor peasants and such organizations are mainly affiliated to left parties and organizations. There are national platform of agriculture labourer unions mainly by the left trade unions and some other national trade union centres. However, after saying all this, it is to be emphasized that considering the hugeness of the agriculture sector, the level of organizing is actually insignificant. All the organizations whether those working at local level or those working at national level have very limited presence in the huge population of agriculture workers. Moreover, the social dynamics of agriculture workers and their movement is very complex, and neither at theoretical level nor at practical level there is still no breakthrough in terms of building really a mass movement that is able to synthesize/unite the class and caste factors.


Allied Sectors


i)                  Fish workers


A significant proportion of fish workers belong to traditional fishing communities and therefore in various regions some form of caste-community based organizations of fish workers exist wherever they are in large numbers in particular regions. However, majority of fish workers are not organized. Comparatively stronger fish workers organizations and their movements emerged in coastal regions. As per the last Marine Fisheries Census in 2005 in India, there were 3,202 marine fishing villages and 756,212 households, a total of 3.52 million people, along mainland India’s coastline of 6002 km. Nearly half of this population (over 1.6 million people) is engaged in active fishing and fishery-related activities. The maximum number of marine fishing villages are in Orissa (641), followed by Tamil Nadu (581), Andhra Pradesh (498), Maharashtra (406) and West Bengal (346). About 40 years back in 1970s National fish workers forum was formed as a federation of state level trade unions, initially from Kerala, Goa and Tamilnadu, and later from almost all coastal states of India. National fish workers forum led vibrant movements of marine fish workers at national level on various issues including the policy issues in recent decades. However, the inland fish workers are still least organized.
ii)                 Plantations


Almost all the national trade union federations have their presence in the plantation sector, however, major force is of trade unions affiliated to Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), Centre of Indian Trade Union (CITU), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), UTUC (United Trade Union Congress), and Hind Mazdur Kissan Panchayat (HMKP). In 1962, a Co-ordination Committee of Tea Plantation Workers (CCTPW) was formed and all these national trade union centers were represented in this coordination committee.  Another forum Committee for Defense of Plantation Worker’s Rights (CDPWR) was formed mainly by smaller unions.


However, the above trade unions represent the voice of a very small number of formal sector workers in some large scale plantations, mainly tea and coffee gardens operated by the corporate. There is almost no presence of trade unions in the smaller plantation estates and the plantations in the informal sector. In the absence of trade unions and absence of collective bargaining, the inhuman socio-economic exploitation of plantation workers, particularly the female workers is generating a very high level of discontent that was recently reflected in an incident in Assam. On December 26, 2012, around 1,000 workers at a privately-owned Tea Estate in Assam attacked the plantation owner’s bungalow set it on fire, and a women worker openly declared before media that: “We all came and attacked the bungalow and set it on fire. They deserved to be killed as the planter has exploited us for a long time and tortured us for petty things.”[1]

iii)             Forest workers


There are large numbers of various types of forest workers organization at local levels across the country ranging from community organizations to trade unions. Considering the hugeness of the population of forest workers, the level of organization is insignificant and also still largely scattered. However, in 1998 an initiative was taken to form a broader alliance of forest workers all over India and National Forum for Forest People and Forest Workers (NFFPFW) was formed. Currently there are affiliates of the forum from 16 states of India. At national level this forum represents the voice of forest workers.




In manufacturing sector, capital intensive industries like metal industries, chemical industries, and in a limited extent some textile industries are comparatively better organized and labour intensive industries like tobacco products, garments, gems and jewellary, leather and wood industries etc are completely unorganized. There are almost no shop floor unions in these sectors, however, there are some federations (industry unions may or may not having any affiliate shopfloor union) in garments, leather, and tobacco products. However these federations generally are not effective in an type of collective bargaining. For example, there are some federations in garment sector in NCR Delhi, Tirpur in Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka; they all are working for more than a decade or two decades, but to my knowledge till date no one of them was able to form any vibrant trade union in any company and no one of them was able to make any collective bargaining agreement on any issue either with any employer or with state governments concerned. In tobacco sector, a vibrant movement emerged in some regions particularly of beedi workers, but after 1990s we do not find any such movement. There are some unions engaged in organizing beedi workers in different parts of the country, however, major population of beedi workers are unorganized. In wood and wood products, and gems and jewellary sector there are almost complete absence of organizing. It is interesting to note that Building and wood workers International (BWI) in India has almost no affiliates in wood sector. By matching the data on most employment generating industries and those industries with higher proportion of informal sector workers following industries emerge as focus areas for organizing:

Food products, beverages and tobacco products (20.9% of manufacturing workforce, proportion of informal sector workers in food and beverages around 76 % and in Tobacco around 90 percent)

Textile and products (15.3 % of manufacturing employment, informal sector workers 87%– special focus may be on organisng handloom workers)

Wearing apparel, dressing and dying of fur (6.2 percent of manufacturing employment; 95 % informal sector workers)

Leather tanning and dressing (2% of manufacturing employment; 90% informal sector workers)

Wood and wood products (0.6% manufacturing employment; 99% informal sector workers)

Other non metallic mineral products (6.6% manufacturing employment; 89% informal workers)

Fabricated metal products (4.2% manufacturing employment; 89% informal sector workers)

Gems and jewellary (0.4% manufacturing employment; 97% informal sector workers).

Apart from these industries, the electronics industries also need our focus for organizing, because it is almost a newly expanding sector with mostly first generation workers and completely unorganized sector, even when a comparatively greater proportion of workers in this industry are in formal sector.




In formal sector of mining, there are large number of trade unions and the trade union federations are formed by all major national trade union centers; for example, Indian National Mineworkers’ Federation affiliated to INTUC, Indian Mine Workers’federation affiliated to AITUC, Hind Khadan Mazdoor Federation affiliated to HMS, Akhil Bharatiya Khadan Mazdoor Sangh affiliated to BMS, All India Coal Workers’ Federation affiliated to CITU etc. However, these trade unions have almost no presence in the informal sector. Informal mining sector is almost completely unorganized and the conditions are such that organizing for collective bargaining in this sector is highly difficult due to informal nature of jobs, migrant and many times labour force and highly autocratic, repressive and exploitative nature of employment relations. In recent decades some initiatives emerged in organizing the informal mine workers but not in the nature of trade unions but in the nature of community organizations, and not focusing on collective bargaining, but focusing on providing support and highlighting some critical occupational health and safety issues and the issue related to the communities affected by mining activities. Mines, Minerals and People (MM&P) and Mine Labour Protection Campaign (MLPC) are two interrelated national networks of informal mine workers organization and communities affected by mining activities. However, in overall terms, the majority of informal sector mine workers are still completely unorganized



In formal sector of transport there are large numbers of trade unions, and in some sectors like railway and government road transport corporations there are many strong and effective trade unions. In informal transport sector there are only few trade unions. There is some level of organization in upper layer informal transport sector like auto-taxi workers in metropolitan cities. However, the lower layer of informal transport sector, like riksha pullars, there are very few in any unions. The riksha pullars form a significantly higher proportion of transport workers in many cities and towns.




The construction as we discussed above is the second largest employment generating sector after agriculture. However, the construction sector is also similarly most unorganized sector. Even when there are significant numbers of construction companies representing the formal sector, the construction workers are almost completely in informal sector because the subcontracting is the dominant practice in construction sector.


There are many construction workers unions working in various regions of India and they claim a significant membership also, however, at the ground presence of these unions and their membership base is actually dismal. However, at the national level their collective strength is significant and this was one of the factors that made the construction workers welfare act a reality. There are many state level construction workers federations and some national level federations mainly affiliated to national trade union centers like Indian National Building Construction, Forest & Woodworkers Federation (INBCFWF) affiliated to INTUC (affiliated to BWI) and Construction Workers Federation of India (CWFI) affiliated CITU. Recently CFWI gave a call for a national strike of construction workers on November 6, 2012, and trade unions and workers from more than 12 states participated in this strike.


After implementation of the construction welfare act, it opened a gate for accelerating the unionization process also. However, even then this process is very week. This is reflected in the fact that huge amount of money is deposited with the Construction welfare boards by collecting Cess from construction companies, but only small numbers of workers are registered with the board to get the social security benefits from the board. The situation is similar in almost all the state. This situation strongly emphasizes the need for focusing our all efforts to utilize this exceptional opportunity to accelerate the organizing in construction sector. 

Street Vendors


Street vendor are another most disorganized section of workers. There are several organizations of street vendors at local level in various regions and there are two main national platforms of street vendors. One is National Hawkers Federation and the other is National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI). National Hawkers Association is more in the nature of grass root people’s movement. On the other hand NASVI is more in the nature of service delivery organization with enough funding support. National Hawkers Federation is based on Kolkata and member organizations of the federation are in various states of India. NASVI is based in Delhi and has also alliance members in various states.


Apart from these sectors, there are two more sections of workers that form a sizable section of workforce particularly in cities and they are most disorganizes sections of workers-home less workers and scrap collecting workers. There are very few organizations engaged in organizing these workers. It is interesting to note that in a survey conducted in 2010, as high as 67151 homeless workers were found in Delhi alone. There are some organization engaged in organizing the rag/scrap pickers and in one initiative in 2007 an All India Kabadi Mazdoor Mahasangh (AIKMM) was formed.


6 comments on “Informal Sector Map of India

  1. Interesting Articles
    July 17, 2013

    Hello, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and
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  4. Maya
    August 26, 2013

    The informal sector, as per the 15th International Conference of Labour Statisticians, consists of “units engaged in production of goods/services with primary objective of generating employment and incomes to the persons concerned” . Within the informal sector, the casual nature of employment means that informal sector workers are deprived of training, personal development and appropriate human resources programs.

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  6. Interesting Hashtagged Articles
    September 17, 2013

    I wanted to thank you for this very good read!!
    I absolutely enjoyed every little bit of it. I have you saved as a favorite to check out new stuff you post…

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