Labour Investigation Committee (1946)||
Labour employed in factories covered by the Indian Factories Act amounts to about 2-5 millions at present. From its inception in the middle of the last century, die factory industry in India has had a steady development. The number of factories in 1892, when factory statistics were first compiled, was 656 and the number of operatives working therein was only 3,16,816. By 1939, the number of factories and workers had increased to 10,466 and 17,51,137 respectively; while in 1944, the corresponding figures were 13,209 and 24,36,312 respectively. To some extent, the definition of a "Factory" under the Factories Acts, of 1881, 1891, 1922 and 1934 has no doubt made some difference to the figures. Yet the enormous expansion in employment that has taken place is largely due to the steady growth of industrialism in the country. In the years immediately preceding World War II, the Indian industry as a whole and the Factories Group in particular had to face considerable competition from other countries. The outbreak of war, however, created an enormous additional demand for Indian goods, and as the war progressed, and particularly after Japan's entry, India became the ''Arsenal of the East" and her economy was geared to an unprecedented pitch of industrial activity. The following table indicates the growth, of employment in registered factories between 1892 and 19431—
Figures in the above table give only the average daily employment in registered factories. As is known, however, factory employment in India still suffers from a considerable extent of absenteeism. The result is that the number of workers attached to factories is appreciably higher than the average daily employment. It is not possible to calculate the total amount of substitute labour employed in the place of absentee workers, but assuming an average absenteeism of 10%, the daily total on the rolls could be worked out to about 2.7 million workers for the year 1943. Moreover, it must be remembered that labour employed by contractors has not been taken into account for purposes of
employment returns, and in a number of industries including engineering, C. P. W. D., dockyards, cement, paper, cotton textiles (Ahmedabad only), and unregulated and seasonal industries, contract labour predominates. Finally, the returns submitted to the Factories Departments by employers omit illegal employment of children, which, in certain industries, is quite considerable, as our ad hoc surveys indicate.
Women and Children.—Broadly speaking the number of women factory workers has been rising very gradually, but as a percentage of total factory labour, female labour has been showing a steady, decline. Thus, while in 1913 women constituted 15% of the total factory labour, by 1943 the percentage had gone down to 11. As regards children, as may be seen from the above table, from the peak of 74,620 (5.3% of total employment) in 1923, the figures came down to 9,403 (0. 5%) in 1939, but has shown a slight rise during war time. As stated already, however, the employment returns for child labour are not entirely reliable, although the general conclusion to be drawn from the figures is that the employment of children (i.e. between 12 and 15 years, as well as below 12) has gone down considerably since the beginning of the century. The following table shows the proportion of workers, classified according to sex and age (broad categories only), in perennial and seasonal factories in the year 1943:—
Proportion of Workers Employed in Perennial and Seasonal Factories in 1943
Category of workers
Workers in Perennial Factories
Workers in Seasonal Factories
It will be seen from the above table that adult women constitute a much larger proportion of workers in seasonal factories than in perennial factories, being 26. 6 per cent. of total employment in the former and 8.6 per cent. in the latter.
Perennial Factories.—The average daily employment in all perennial factories in 1943 was 2,137,943. This represents an increase of 677,659 over the corresponding figures for 1939, viz., 1,460,284, i.e., a rise of 46.4% during the course of only four years. The following table will show both the predominance of certain groups of perennial factory industries as well as the rapid growth in employment which has taken place in different sections in recent years. It will be seen that since 1929, employment in perennial factories has nearly doubled.
Chief Classes of Perennial Factory Workers.
Labour employed in textile mills forms the largest single group of perennial workers. In 1943, 10,04,546 workers were employed in these factories. It may be pointed out however, that though total employment in textile factories has been rising, the percentage share of textile labour in the total employment in perennial factories has been steadily going down in recent years. Thus, it was 59.7% in 1929, and it fell to 47% in 1943. In the textile groups, in 1943, cotton spinning and weaving mills accounted for 63% jute mills for 32% and other mills for 5% only. Labour in this group is easily the best organised part of India's industrial population, and this is obviously due to employment in these factories being more stable and permanent. Engineering minerals and metals form the second largest group at present, although as will be clear from Table 3, the expansion has mainly been a war-time development, and actually employment immediately before the World War II was less than in 1929. The main constituents of this group are general engineering, iron and steel, shipbuilding, ordinance factories and railway workshops. The following table gives figures for employment in these five important constituents:—
Employment in the Engineering Group of Factories
Percentage increased since 1939.
|Iron and Steel||40,790||60,944||49.4|
The third group of perennial factories, comprising food, drink and tobacco factories, chemicals and dyes factories, paper mills, printing presses, wood, stone and glass works, and leather works, has shown a considerable increase in recent years. Employment in this section has risen from 155,000 in 1929 to 523,289 in 1943 and the percentage share has risen from 13.3% to 24.5%.
Seasonal Factories. -—Seasonal factories are factories which , on the average, work for not more than 180 days in a year. Such factories are comparatively small, are distributed over wide areas, and recruit labour from amongst agriculturists, which is mainly unskilled, low paid and unorganised; in such factory there is a large proportion of women than in perennial factories, as will be seen from the previous table. These factories comprise two groups: (i) one consisting of cotton ginning and pressing, jute pressing, indigo, shellac, tea, coffee, and rubber factories, etc., and (ii) the other consisting of some rice mills, oil mills, sugar mills, tobacco factories, flour mills and others. The first group is predominantly seasonal while the latter is partially seasonal. The following table brings up to date similar data provided by the Royal Commission1 on Labour. It must be noted, however, that there is slight difference between classifications adopted by the Royal Commission and that adopted in the statistics under the Factories Act, 1934. An effort has been made to give corresponding figures as far as possible.
Report, p. 75 8—2 M of Lab. 56
Employment in Seasonal Factories
|A. Predominantly Seasonal|
|Cotton gins and presses,||136,666||123,879||117,311|
|Jute presses .||37,300||13,089||8,433|
|Others (i.e. indigo, lac, coffee, rubber and others) .||11,368(b)||6,410||5,937|
|B. Partially Seasonal|
|Others (i.e. flour mills, tile and brick factories, ice and aerated water and others) (d)||21,738||1,853||2,102|
(a) Figures for 1929 are from Royal Commission's Report, p. 75 (and exclude Burma).
(b) This includes those engaged in ground-nut decortications.
(c) In recent years 'Oil Mills' have been perennial and there appear to be no seasonal
(d) 'Flour Mills' and 'tiles and bricks' factories are now perennial.
It appears from the foregoing table that the employment in seasonal factories^ governed by the Factories Act, has remained more or less steady, as between 1939 and 1943. The group does not appear to have been influenced much by war-time conditions. This is probably due to the fact that during the war-period, these factories were considerably dislocated owing to shortages of coal and other raw materials caused by insufficient transport facilities.
Unregulated Factories.—Unregulated factories are those which are not subject to any legal regulation or respect only to nominal regulation in respect of one or two matters, these factories fall outside the scope of the Factories Act, 1934, either because they employ less than 20 workers or because, even if covered by Section 5 they employ less than 10 workers. However, in this, group, in some industries such as shellac, mica splitting, carpet-weaving, bidi making etc., the Employment of Children (Amendment) Act, 1939, applies prohibiting employment of Children below 12 years. Likewise, m the Central Provinces and Berar, under the Unregulated Factories Act, 1937, there is regulation of some aspects of factory conditions only, and this Act applies to any place therein 50 or more workers are employed, and wherein bidi making, shellac manufacture or leather tanning is carried on. Broadly speaking, however, in the unregulated factories group, we have most of the so-called "cottage" Industries which' power may or may not be used. The group includes mainly the following industries: mica manufacture, wool cleaning- shellac, bidi making, carpet weaving, indigenous tanneries, coir-matting
handloom weaving, glass bangle manufacture, etc. No precise figures for employment have been available for many of these industries. The Committee, however, conducted ad hoc surveys in mica manufacturing, glass, coir-matting, carpet weaving, shellac, and bidi making. In mica manufacturing total employment in the three regions of Bihar, Madras, and Rajputana in 1943 is estimated by them at 150,000, of which Bihar accounted for 135,000, Madras 10,000 and Rajputana 5,000. In 1949, however, it was probably in the neighbourhood of 124,000 (Bihar 118,000, Madras 6,000 and Rajputana nil). It will be seen that employment showed an increase of about 13% between the two years. In the glass bangle making industry, it is estimated by the Committee that total employment for British India is in the neighbourhood of 10,000, while in the Indian States, it was probably about 2,000. In coir-matting Cochin employs about 40,000 persons while Travancore employs 30,000 Workers directly and in addition about 30,000 families work at home. As regards carpet weaving, in three leading centres, viz., Mirzapur, Amritsar, and Srinagar the total employment was found to be in the neighbourhood of 1,657. Including all other centres, employment in this industry cannot be more than 10,000. In the indigenous shellac industry, it is estimated that something like 25,000 to 30,000 workers are employed in various processes. As regards bidi making it is estimated that in all about 500,000 workers are employed.
Provincial Distribution of Factory Workers-—The distribution by Provinces of factories and factory workers for the years 1939. and 1943 is given in the table below.
Distribution by Provinces of Factories and Factory Workers
|Number of factories||
Number of Factories
|C. P. & Berar||740||64,494||822||84,696|
|N. W. F. P.||36||1,268||34||5,029|
|Bangalore & Coorg||13||1,380||16||3,040|
Figures are given for each Province or area according to the order of importance, and include, of course, figures for both perennial and seasonal factories, governed by the Factories, Act, 1934. It will be seen that Bombay, Bengal and Madras are the principal industrialised Provinces while U.P. Punjab, Bihar, C. P. & Berar and others follow in due order. It will also be
noted that whereas Bombay had smaller number of factories and workers than Bengal in 1936 (Bombay: 1 ,611 factories and 391,771 workers: Bengal: 1,667 factories and 531,835 workers), there is an unmistakable tendency for Bombay to out-rival Bengal in recent years in regard to both factories and workers. Likewise, the Punjab appears to have made greater progress than Bihar in recent years.