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Women Construction Workers

Basic Rights of Women Workers
The I.L.O. formulated the following seven basic rights of women:

The Right to Equal Pay
ILO Convention No. 100,
Equal Remuneration, 1951. (In India)

The Right to Equal Treatment
ILO Convention No. 111, Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) 1958 (In India)

ILO Convention No. 142,
Human Resources Development, 1975
Maternity Protection, 1919

ILO Convention No.I03,
Maternily Protection, (Revised), 1952. (In India)

The Right to Combine Work and Domestic Responsibilities
ILO Convention No. 156,
Workers with Family Responsibilities 1981.

The Right to Paid Work
ILO Convention No. 168,

Employment Promotion and Protection, 1988

ILO Convention No. 158,
Termination of Employment, 1982.

The Right to Safe & Healthy Work Enviroment free from Sexual Harassment
Resolution on Equal Opportunity and Equal Treatment for men and Women in Employment, 1985.

In the Indian constitution, Article 23 and 24 (i.e. right against exploitation), which are under the heading 'Fundamental Right' and Article 39 clauses (e) and (f) and Article 45, which are under the heading 'Directive Principles' of State Policy are covering the rights of women and children.

On the basis of all these observation and realities, it is worthwhile to examine briefly the numbers of women employed in construction and the conditions under which they are employed and their career promotion etc. The number of female construction workforce is given below.

As per 1961 census : Total - 20 lakhs - Total Construction Workers Female 3 lakhs
As per 1971 census : Total - 221akhs - Total Construction Workers Female 2 lakhs
As per 1981 census : Total -36 lakhs - Total Construction Workers Female 3.6 lakhs
As per 1991 census : Total - 55 lakhs - Total Construction Workers Female 4 lakhs
As per 2001 census : Total - 76 lakhs - Total Construction Workers Female 7 lakhs

Some Research Findings
1. About 80 percent of female workers, at the age of 10-12 years start working in the Construction Industry.

2. 92 percent of women—workers are illiterate in this industry.

3. Almost 90 percent women workers are in temporary jobs. Women workers are being retrenched very often for demanding equal wage, leave and some other benefits.

4. Women construction workers are denied equal remuneration and are not even paid the minimum wage.

5. Women have to work 10-12 hours in a day. There is no specific rest intervals for them.

6. There is no such provision of paid holidays for daily paid workers though they work continously for considerable period of time. Women workers do not get leave. No work no pay system is in pratice.

Women's Employment Choices are Limited
There are many factors which prohibit women workers to get training. Some of the major ones are?
- availability of relevant programmes,
- timing and location of training,
- competing demands of children and families,
- lack of formal education as a pre-requisite,
- resisatance or even opposition of men to women receiving training.

What Should Trade Unions Do

Every trade union can do atleast 5 things -
- Encourage Vocational training institutes and employers to provide women workers with training opportunities in non- traditional jobs;
- Ensure that women workers have access to information concerning training opportunities;
- Enusre that all staff involved with recruitment and selection are given equal opportunities training and that training is given to workers based on merit only.
- Unions must negotiate with employers to ensure that once a woman has received additional training—she is paid accordingly.
- Unions must conduct literacy and adult education work to prepare women workers for skill training.

Turn Around
There is a clear sexual division of labour in construction work. All the skilled operations are done by men. In unskilled work, while men helpers dig earth, mix the mortar, carry cement bags, women carry headload, bricks and other construction materials.
If we want to turn around this picture, the union, the management and the government have to work together for developing skill base, technology and capacity through planned training scheme. This step will create high confidence level within the women construction workers to move ahead.

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