Precarity of Informal Work, Absence of Social Security, and Ageism: The Persistence of Social Inequalities and Challenges for Older Adults’ Labor Force Participation in IndiaUgargol, A. P, Parvathy, L
Journal: Handbook of Aging, Health and Public Policy (p. 29). Springer Nature Singapore
Abstract: As India continues to experience rapid aging, the traditional joint family system, which accorded socioeconomic support for older adults in India, is gradually weakening amidst rapid economic and social changes. With the increasing informalization of work in India, declining family support, and the near absence of social security, there is evidence of a growing precarity for older adults who are compelled to engage with the informal labor market for livelihood. A large proportion of the older adult workforce is engaged in poorly paid jobs in the informal sector, either as casual workers or as self-employed in low-skilled or unskilled occupations. In an informal economy characterized by unequal power relations, poor terms and conditions of work, the high proportion of older adults’ labor force participation is concerning, as is the evidence that those who were historically, socially, and economically backward are the ones more likely to participate in the labor force at advanced ages. The high proportion of older adults working as casual workers indicates the lack of other options to withdraw from the labor force due to the near nonexistence of retirement benefits. The chapter discusses the various social security programmes for older adults and their poor utilization levels, pointing to the serious lacunae in access and sufficiency of these programmes.
Thus, while, on the one hand, informal employment is highly precarious, with older adults being subjected to biased ageist practices, on the other hand, not working or not finding work given the absence of social security and the declining filial support is perilous. This chapter highlights the need for integrated efforts to design and implement policies that can be inclusive, equitable, and supportive to older adults to experience productive aging with guaranteed social security nets that can enable an enhanced quality of life and well-being. The need to recognize and guarantee the freedom of choice and agency that older adults deserve to either continue to work or withdraw from the labor force is underscored. In the wake of interventions such as the Social Security Code of 2020, insights from the chapter offers directions for future policy correction and improvement. The authors highlight the need to re-center the argument for productive and active aging to shift from a needs-based approach where older adults are perceived as passive targets to a rights-based approach that ensures independence and self-fulfilment for older adults.