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SOCIO-ECONOMIC CONDITIONS OF AGRICULTURAL WOMEN LABOUR
IN ANDHRA PRADESH: A CASE STUDY OF KARIMNAGAR DISTRICT
Dommati Devendra and Krishna Reddy Chittedi1
Women suffer from a multiple burden on their time due to their home making, child rearing
and income earning responsibilities. When they work the whole day in fields and forests, they
need appropriate support services like crèches and child care centers. A Gram panchayat
mahila fund should be established to enable SHGs and other women’s groups to undertake
community activities that help to meet essential gender specific needs. The feminization of
agriculture, due to male out migration, needs specific attention with reference to gender
sensitive farm and credit policies. All research, development and extension programmes in
agriculture and all services must be engendered.
- M.S. Swaminathan, Chairperson
Draft national Policy for farmers (revised), 2006
Agriculture is the largest sector of the rural economy and is a family enterprise, since
56 per cent of its population is dependent on it in India. India‟s economic security is
heavily dependent on agriculture. In terms of employment, it is the most important
sector. Women in India are the backbone of the society and important human
resource. They play a significant and crucial role in agriculture and allied operations
and household activities. Traditionally, women have always played an important
role in agriculture – as farmers, co –farmers, family labour, wage labours and
mangers of farms. The selection, preservation and maintenance, the development
and sharing of seed stock has long been preserve of women. They have been active
not just in crop cultivation but also in allied areas such as horticulture, livestock and
fisheries. The fact is that women‟s contributions in these sectors have either been
largely ignored or inadequately acknowledged. Women constitute nearly half the
population in any country either it is developed or developing country. Accordingly
to U.N. Reports, “Women are almost half of the adult population. They constitute
one –third of labour force but consume two-thirds of the world‟s working hours and
1 Doctoral Scholars at Department of Economics, Osmania University, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh Email
email@example.com and Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum, Kerala, India
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org respectively.
Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1714931Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1714931
yet earn only one tenth of the income and own only one per cent of world property
(Varma 1992). Women constitute in innumerable way to the development process.
Broadly their contribution to socio-economic development has two fold i.e., i) in the
home ii) outside the home. In the home, women‟s role as daughter, wife and mother
cannot be under estimated. A woman as a caretaker of the members of the family
attends to food requirements. She looks after the health of all members of the family.
Woman is also the first teacher. The training imparted by her to the child forms the
basis of future skills formation among the work forces.
Outside home, a woman tries to be an equal and able partner in the economic
activities. In agriculture, she is engaged in seeding, planting, weeding, irrigating,
processing, harvesting and threshing operations.
In Economic terms (Chauhan 2003), women:
1. Quantitatively, supply labour force through her reproductive function,
2. Qualitatively, improve productivity of workers thought her proper care, at
3. Supplement income of the family and thus helps in improving the
standard of living and
4. Help by contribution to savings.
The various activities of women can be divided in to two broad headings viz.,
“Market Activities” which consist of activities of women in farm and non-form
sectors and “Non-Market Activities” which include personal care of children,
cooking, washing cloths, fetching water, animal care etc. In these activities women
play an effective role. The dual role of women as paid workers in the outside market
and unpaid workers in the household leads to a significant contribution in real terms
to the productive system. But throughout the world the rural women have been
under-represented in the development process. The male-dominated society has not
recognized their proper contribution.
A unique feature of female participation throughout India is that they are workers,
labourers, cultivators, producers, traders besides performing all household duties
which are considered as “Unproductive”. In cultivation except ploughing, leveling,
irrigation and all other works are generally shared by both men and women. Women
are involved in some of the most arduous and hardest work is agriculture fields
under different climatic condition and on the lowest wage rate. This includes
bending for hours while weeding and transplanting in knee-deep water and mud.
The farm women are the contributors of labour in agricultural production. They are
responsible for the management of cattle and other farm animals, storage of seeds,
food grains, processing and marketing (Purohit 1995).But women‟s contribution in
terms of production, employment and earnings, have been over looked and labeled
as „supplementary‟, „casual‟, and „supporting‟. Far from these, their contribution is
substantial. It is unfortunate that her role is not adequately recognized and properly
her contribution not qualified. There is gross under-estimation of this invisible force.
However, „women and development‟ as a subject entered the international scene
around 1970, when the disguised economic administrative and social contribution of
invisible labour force began to be uncovered. The United Nations General Assembly
considered the role and position of women in society and declared 1975-85 as the
In India, constitution has provided equal rights and privileges for men and women
and has made special provisions for women to improve their status in society. Five
year plans, those do not seen to have significant impact on them as unequal and
unimportant partners. This is evidenced by the fact of low sex ratio, low life
expectancy, high mortality, illiteracy, low nutritional status, low economic and social
status of women especially in rural areas. Sixth five year plan on words, the
Government of India has evolved a number of programmers in order to benefit the
rural women in various fields like social, education, health, economic, political etc
and brings them in to the orbit of development.
1.1 Status of women in agriculture and allied activities:
Most of the work that women do, such as collecting fuel, fodder and water, growing
vegetables and keeping poultry for domestic consumption go unrecorded in the
census country. Many women and girls who work on family land are not recorded
Women constitute 90 per cent of the total marginal workers of the country. Rural
women engaged in agriculture from 78 per cent of all women in regular work. They
are a third of all workers on the land. The traditional gender division of labour
ensures that these women get on average 30 per cent lower wages than men. The
total employment of women in organised sector is only 4 per cent. A recent study
conducted by Women and Population Division of FAO revealed that in developing
countries women provide 70 percent of agricultural labour, 60-80 percent labour for
household food production, 100 percent labour for processing the basic food stuffs,
80 per cent for food storage and transport from farm to village 90 per cent for water
and fuel wood collection for households.
Women produce between 60 to 80 percent of the food in most developing countries
and are responsible for half of the world‟s food production; therefore, women‟s role
in food production ensures the survival of millions of people in all regions. Women‟s
livelihood strategies, and their support and means of ensuring food security are
diversed and complex, from cultivating field crops to livestock rearing, home
gardening, gathering etc. They make above contributions despite unequal access to
land, inputs and information. A growing body of evidence indicates that if male –
female access to input were less unequal, substantial gains in agricultural output
would occur, benefiting, both women and men. Estimations from FAO of United
Nations show that women account for more than half of labour required to produce
the food consumed in the developing world.
In addition to working in the fields, women not only ensure fuel, fodder, water and
food, but also have to look after the emotional needs of their families the children,
elders and husbands. The nurturing, caring and reproductive responsibilities are the
dimension that have never been computed economically but are essential and
significant aspects of women‟s work load. Women‟s role as food producers is related
also to their role as mothers and nurtures and in sustaining their families and
communities. Their work is integral to the quality of life of people.
Women have major constraints for participation in agriculture is as follows
1) Unequal Land Rights
2) Limited Access to Use of Resources
3) Lack of Equipment and Appropriate Technology
4) Limited Contact with Agricultural Extension
5) Lack of Access to Credit
6) Lower Level of Education
1.2 Role of Women in Agriculture:
If at all there is any enterprise, since the dawn of civilization, in which women
played a significant role or participated in large number, it is nothing but
agriculture. Women played an important role because agriculture is largely a
household enterprise. Recent studies highlight that women in India are major
producers of food in terms of value, volume and number of hours worked. Nearly 63
per cent of all economically active men are engaged in agriculture as compared to 78
percent of women. Almost 50 per cent of rural female workers are classified as
agricultural labour and 37 percent as cultivators. About 70 percent of farm work was
performed by women. Thus it aptly justifies “most farmers in India are women”. A
larger proportion of women continue to be in agriculture than men-hence our
concern with women‟s position in this sector. Casualisation has been increasing
which indicates uncertain, irregular work with no guaranteed minimum wage.
Concern about casualisation arises because agriculture itself is declining in terms of
its contribution to our gross domestic product (GDP) and in terms of growth.
Of the total Indian population, 31. 39 per cent are main workers and 3.49 per cent
marginal workers. The percentage of female main workers and female marginal
workers is 16.8 and 6.26 respectively of the female workers, 34.55 per cent are
cultivators, 43.56 per cent are agricultural labourers, and 4.65 per cent are engaged in
livestock, forestry and fisheries. Of the female marginal workers 47.91 per cent are
cultivators 41.43 per cent are agricultural labourers and 1.64 per cent are engaged in
livestock, fisheries and forestry remaining 17.62 per cent female main workers and
9.02 per cent female marginal workers are in non-agricultural sector. Thus in India
women forces are overwhelmingly engaged in agriculture both as main and
marginal workers and played a pivotal role from ancient time.
There is no denying the fact that women do not have equal access to beneficial
change and status in society is not identical to that of men. This is especially true in
villages. Several studies have shown that the woman employee – whatever job she
holds – is equal in efficiency and performance to the male employee in identical
employment situations. Some of the studies even indicate that in certain aspects of
the woman employee is even more efficient. In the matter of reliability, promptness
and punctuality she had been found to have an edge over her male counterpart
(Lalitha Devi, 1982)7.
1.3 Global Scene:
Globally women constitute half of the world‟s population and produce half of the
agricultural products according to a UN report. This indicates the contribution of
women in the economic prosperity of the nations, whose lifeblood is agriculture,
through their participation in agriculture as cultivators, agricultural labourers and
casual helpers. It is to be noted here that one third of Australian farmers and
workers are women (Padmavathi 2006). Women suffer from womb to tomb in the male
dominated society. Their labour plays a key role in the survival of millions of
families. The problem of poverty cannot be tackled without providing opportunities
of productive employment to rural women. Women are important economic agents
in India, particularly in the context of poverty. Women‟s income in the poverty
groups is critical for household survival. Three quarter of women all over to world
live in rural areas and most of them work in agricultural sector and a wide range of
related activities (Begum 2000).
The rural women in our society are exploited and denied their basic rights. Their
inherent dignity and equal inalienable rights are not recognized in the society. Their
socio-economic status, the nature and mode of work and the way of people‟s life
have been changed along with the new development in the society. Today there is
hardly any place and work inside or outside home where a woman cannot perform.
But the society particularly, rural society is not still ready to accept any change in
women‟s role, work position and status because of the orthodox and conservative
beliefs in villages.
The rest of the paper is arranged as follows: section 2 A brief reviews of past studies
on women employment, wages and utilization are presented. Section 3 gives the
Nature of data and Methodology. Section 4 is devoted for study of the economic
contribution of agricultural working women to household income and the pattern of
expenditure and savings of agricultural women labour in study area. Section 5
concludes with the summary of results and suggestions.
2. Review of literature:
In this chapter an attempt is made to present a review of select and recent studies
relating to on women employment and labour utilization that are relevant to studies,
the present topic. . It covers the review of different aspects such as women
participation, concept, technology, cropping pattern, irrigation facilities, farm size,
economic contribution, migration, land holding size, education, burden of work,
family income, work force, seasonal variations, caste, and sex discrimination etc.
Women in India are major producers of food in term of value, volume and number
of hours worked. Nearly 63% of all economically active men are engaged in
agriculture as compared to 78% of women. Almost of rural female workers are
classified as agricultural labourers and 37% as cultivators. About 70% of form work
was performed by women. It is observed that the women play a significant and
crucial role in agricultural development and allied fields including, in the main crop
production, live-stock production, horticulture, post - harvesting operations,
agro/social forestry, fishing etc., is a fact long taken for granted but also long
ignored (Rao 2006).
Purohit (1995) analyzed a unique feature of female participation throughout India is
that they are workers, laborers, cultivators, producers, traders besides performing all
household duties which are considered as „unproductive‟. The various activities of
women can be divided into two broad heading viz. „Market Activities‟ which consist
of activities of women on farm and non-farm and „Non-market‟ which include
personal care of children cooking, washing clothes, fetching water, animal care etc.
In all these activities women play an effective role. The dual role of woman as paid
workers in the outside market and unpaid workers in the household leads to a
significant contribution in real terms to the productive system. But throughout the
world, the rural women have been under-represented in the development process.
The male dominated society has not recognized their proper contribution.
Varma (1992) revealed that during the harvesting season, utilization of women
labour is maximal, carrying bundle of harvested crop to the stop where threshing
would be done is a heavy task which is performed mostly by women. Each bundle is
carried as a head load by women, mostly bare footed, walking over the sharp shrubs
of the harvested fields. Men rarely participated in this task. Falling participation of
women in employment was first pointed out by Gadgil (1938) in 1924 but effective
concern on this issue was shown only after the independence of the country.
In India, the decennial census which constitutes one of the main official sources of
macro data on female work participation is severely impaired by biases and
inadequacies on a number of counts which lead to an undercounting of females both
as workers and as those available for work. Therefore, it is important to take into
account of such biases which are effecting female work participation rate ( Bina
Battacharya(1985) indicated that according to the standard framework which allots
one worker to one kind of work actively, women who work on multiple tasks after
get left out of work force estimates. Soma (1988) observed that the contribution
which the women make as workers cannot be recorded because household work has
yet not been properly quantified. Patel (1989) said that due to the invisibility of
unpaid work at home, value of their labour is under estimated leading to their
exploitation. In other words, they work for longer hours than men (particularly rural
women) but are under paid. Patnaik (1995) study was based on the contribution of
employed women to household income. She has given more importance to the
burden of work. According to her, about 8 hours a day women are working her
place of work and another 8 hours of work at home. Sethi (1984) also pointed out
the near fourfold increase in women work participation rate in the state of Punjab
which is in the vanguard of Green Revolution in this country.
There are some other studies, which tried to explain the women labour participation
rates, in terms of economic and non-economic factors. Economic factors include
wages, technology, irrigation, cropping pattern, farm size, economic development
and urbanization etc. And non-economic factors or socio-cultural factors are caste,
education, migration, marriage, family size and sex discrimination etc.
Diwan (1995) Mies (1986), Parmar (1987) In spite of the development attempts made
to elevate the status of rural women, they continue to get lower wage than men. A
number of studies have tried to guage of rural women with regard to their wages.
These studies have clearly established that women employed as wage labourers of
domestic servants were generally paid lower wages than the male labourers. Begum
(2000) reveled that a large number of women in rural areas, like their men folk
depend on daily wages earned in agricultural operations. Though they work hard
for long hours, they get very less money leading to indebtedness. Yet they continue
to depend on the land owners for employment and loans. Thus, their dependence on
agriculture makes the land lords utilize freely the services of all the members of the
families. In the process of economic exploitation the female agricultural labourers
even become the targets of sexual harassment. Tuteja (2000) revealed that the female
agricultural workers contribute significantly in household income on all farm sizes
and their earning is found most crucial for the landless and small farm households.
The proportionate contribution of female declined with increasing farm size while
vice versa is true for absolute income.
From the above review, there is no particular study, which is based on agricultural
work, wages and economic contributions of working women to household income
and pattern of expenditure and savings of agricultural women labour. Some studies
are given more importance to women agricultural work and some was showing
discrimination of wages. So my aim is (i) to made an attempt to examine the
employment and wages of agricultural women labour simultaneously on the basis of
different area conditions (i.e., one side drought area and another side assured
irrigation facilities) and (ii) An attempt to study the economic contribution of
agricultural working women to household income and the pattern of expenditure
and savings of agricultural women labour.
2.1 Justification of the study
Women in the Indian labour force have been widely researched since the mid
seventies. A number of studies have highlighted their status, visibility and
importance in the economy. There are, however, many problems related to the
definition of work, more working works, invisibility of work (household or domestic
work), enumeration and coverage of workers which is effecting the work
participation of women. Women are the backbone of the village economy of rural
India. Women take up different works to eke out their livelihood and the majority of
the rural women depend on agriculture which is the major unorganized sector in
India. Many of these labourers are land less, homeless and belong to the socially
depressed class of the society. Despite the seasonal nature of employment in the
field of agriculture enormous growth is witnessed in the size of the agricultural
labourers since the beginning of this century. An attempt is made to study the
female labourers especially in agricultural field of two Mandals from Karimnagar
District in Andhra Pradesh. The present study is an attempt to study the
characteristics of the agricultural labourers of the two Mandals from Karimnagar
district with a view to identify the detailed information on the female labourers,
their problem, regarding employment, wages, economic contribution to household
income and pattern of expenditure and savings agricultural women labour and to
suggest suitable guidelines for improvement in the working condition of the women
The study has been based on women employment in agricultural sector in Telangana
region of Andhra Pradesh and the study has been confined to Karimnagar district.
This has been done due to the following reasons. For the purpose of village level
study, Karimnagar district has been witnessing agricultural development and
irrigation under Sri Ram Sagar and Manair Projects. It also has a dry tract. Hence
agriculture female labour participation is more in this district and is also different in
different areas. As per information made available from the records of the office of
the Assistant Director, Planning and Statistics, Karimnagar, in this district,
1. Malharrao Mandal has dry area consisting of villages where major sources
of irrigation are tanks and wells and
2. Manakondur Mandal has command area consisting of villages which are
under the command of major irrigation projects.
The aim was to intensively study some villages on the basis of season. Hence in view
of the resources constraint it was decided to select only two Mandals from
Karimnagar district. Therefore, out of 57 Mandals of the district, Malharrao Mandal
(dry area) and Manakondur Mandal (command area) from Karimnagar district were
2. 3 Objectives of the study:
1. To study the economic contribution of agricultural working women to
household income and also to examine the pattern of expenditure and savings
of agricultural women labour in the Karimnagar District in Andhra Pradesh.
3 Nature of data and Methodology
This study was based on both primary and secondary sources of data. Primary data
have been collected through questionnaire schedule method. The secondary data are
from census of india 2001. Three different seasons have been taken as a reference
period for the study i.e., Kharrif, Rabi and Lean season in the year 2007-08.
The main objectives of this study are to analyse the employment, wages, economic
contribution of agricultural working women to household income and the pattern of
expenditure and savings of agricultural women labour in study area. Data relating to
family size, cost composition, level of literacy, land holding size, socio-economic
conditions, employment, mode and method of payment, total income of the family,
expenditure and savings of the family are collected through personal interview with
the help of a structured questionnaire.
3.2 Selection of Villages and Sample Respondents
In the first stage by using „Multi-stage, purposive sampling method‟ to analyse the
above objectives, it was decided to collect data from one Village in each Mandal.
From each Mandal, this one village has been selected on the basis of either it is
having more irrigation facilities or totally dry area. There are 22 Villages in
Malharrao Mandal and 18 Villages are in Manakondur Mandal. Out of these 22
Villages, Ansanpally Village from Malharrao Mandal and Pachunur village from
Manakondur Mandal were selected purposively for the purpose of the study.
Particularly to analyse the inter-district variations. The exhaustive list of the
households depending upon land holding is prepared. It means that a household
who has a land and those who does not have land and earn more than 50 percent of
their total income by way of wages from agricultural sector.
In the second stage, it was also decided to collect data from 100 sample labourers.
This, from each village 50 sample labourers i.e., uniform sample for all villages are
selected for collection of data. Hence, a total of 100 women respondents i.e., 50 from
each village consisting of SC/ST households and non - SC/ST were selected at
randomly for an indepth study with the help of a household schedule.
4 Socio-Economic Conditions of Agricultural Women Labour in Karimnagar (Dist)
This chapter deals with profile of the Karimnagar District and socio-economic
conditions of agricultural women labour in Malharrao and Manakondur Mandals
from where the sample villages were selected.
4.1 Brief Profile of Karimnagar District:
Karimnagar District is one of the few districts of the Telengana Region in Andhra
Pradesh with good natural resource endowment both in agricultural and industries.
The district extends over an are of 4588.8 squire mites or 1823 Sq Kilometers with a
population of 35.01 lakhs consisting 5 Revenue Division, 57 Mandals and 1103
Villages of which 42 are uninhabited. The density of population is 294 per Sq. K. m.
as per 2001 Census. This District is situated with in the geographical Co-ordinates of
17-5 Northern latitude and 78-29 Eastern Longitude, and is 1600 above the see level.
This District is surrounded by Adilabad District on the North, Maharastra state on
the Easter side, Nizamabad District on the North – West and Medak and Warangal
Districts on the South. The District Head-quarters is at a distance of 165 km. from
the state capital.
4.1.1 Climate and Rainfall:
The climate conditions of the District are moderate except at Ramagundum where
the maximum temperature of 40.0oC in peak summer is found to be highest in the
state. The normal rainfall of the District is 968.6 m. ms. Nearly 83 percent of this is
received in the South-West Monsoon. The district ranks second in the receipt of
maximum rainfall in South-West monsoon.
4.1.2 Land Utilization:
The total geographical area of the district is 11,89,004 hectares. The net area sown
under all crops in the district forms 3,31,494 hectares during the year 2002-03. Forests
cover 2,50,517 hectares, barren and uncultivable lands cover 84,186 hectares, land
put to non-agriculture covers 80,163 hectares, culturable waste covers 19,242
hectares, permanent pastures and other grazing lands cover 54,875 hectares, land
under miscellaneous and tree crops land groves not included in net area sown 7,134
hectares current follow lands and other follow cover 3,61,393 hectares.
Sri Ram Sagar Project is a Major irrigation project of this district, serving an ayacut of
5.74 lakhs acres in this district, covering 33 Mandals including partly and fully in the
villages. Manair Project” and “Shanigaram Project” are also serving 17,000 and 7,000
acres of ayacut, in some parts of Mandals of Sirsilla and Karimnagar Divisions. The
net area irrigated in this district is 2,26,757 hectares. The area irrigated by Canal is
77,217 hectares followed by tanks, it is 36,737 hectares.
The gross cropped area is 4.40 lakh hectares of which 3.18 lakh hectares are irrigated.
The main crops raised in the district are Rice, Maize, Green gram, Chillies, Turmeric,
Cotton, Groundnut etc.
4.1.5 Population and Occupation Distribution:
As per the Census of 2001, the population of Karimnagar District is 35,00,876. Out of
these, 28, 11,881 is rural population.
Table 1 Distribution of workers according to occupation in Karimnagar district for
Occupation Male Female Total
Cultivators 2,76, 355 (28.4) 1,67,667 (22.0) 4,44,022 (25.6)
Agricultural Labourers 2,48,762 (25.6) 3,33,756 (43.9) 5,82,518 (33.6)
Household Industry 50,543 (5.2) 1,65,701 (21.8) 2,16,244 (12.5)
Other Workers 3,97,318 (40.8) 93,634 (12.3) 4,90,952 (28.3)
Total Workers 9,72,978 7,60,758 17,33,736
Population 17,53,486 17,47,390 35,00,876
Percentage of Workers
Note : Figures in Parenthesis indicate percentage to total workers.
Source: Census of India, 2001.
The participation of population with occupation for the district are presented in table Download full-text
1. The proportion of workers to total population constitute 49.52 percent. The work
for among males are more i.e., 55.48 percent as compared to female where it is 43.53
percent only. This indicates the low participation rate of female as compared to
males in Karimnagar District. Among the total female workers, agricultural
labourers are in greater proportion followed by cultivators and household industry.
This clearly indicate that agriculture is the main source of livelihood to a major
proportion of workers in Karimnagar district. On contrary to this, female
agricultural labourers are in greater proportion than male agricultural labourers to
total workers respectively. This clearly shows that in the total female workers, a
major proportion of females is working in agricultural sector as agricultural
labourers and cultivators.
Table 2 Distribution of Workers According to Occupation and total Population: in
Malharrao and Mandal Manakondur Mandal in 2001 (Rural)
Total Male Female Female Total
Total main workers
5 Percentage of total
main workers to
Note: Figures in parenthesis indicate percentage to total workers.
Source: Census of India, 2001.
The data on the distribution of working is presented in Table 2. Among total main
workers, male workers constitute a greater proportion than female workers. The
proportion of male and female workers to their total population is 58.45 and 51.45
percent respectively. But the participation rates of female in this Mandal are less by