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The Southern India Mills’ Association

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Beedi, apparel-making are top activities of women-run units in informal sector

Tina Edwin
Women owned a little over 1.23 crore units in India’s informal sector but three-quarters of such units were engaged in retail trade or in making either garments, tobacco products or textiles.
Almost all these units were tiny enterprises and were more likely to be run from home and did not hire any workers. A significant number of these units depended on work given out on contract basis.
Women-run enterprises accounted for about one-fifth of the estimated 6.3 crore units in the informal sector, a detailed report of the National Sample Survey Organisation on India’s informal sectors, excluding agriculture and construction units titled Operational Characteristics of Unincorporated Non-Agricultural Enterprises (Excluding Construction) in India released recently show. The survey was carried out between July 2015 and June 2016.
Manufacturing units
Significantly, businesses run by women were mostly concentrated in the manufacturing sector and their presence in services other than trade was tiny. Women owned 45 per cent of the units in manufacturing but just 8.7 per cent of the units engaged in trade and 7.4 per cent of the units in services. In all, there were 1.97 crore units in manufacturing, 2.3 crore units in trade and 2.07 crore units in services in the informal sector.
Of the 1.23 crore units owned by women, 33.32 lakh or 27 per cent were engaged in manufacturing garments, which essentially means they were running small tailoring units.
Another 28.56 lakh units or 23.1 per cent were engaged in making tobacco products and 13.49 lakh units or 10.9 per cent units were engaged in making textiles. Retail trade accounted for 19.62 lakh units or 16 per cent of the units owned by women. Women-run enterprises also had significant presence in education, manufacture of food products and wood-based products as well as in food service, NSSO data showed.
The NSSO report also revealed women-run enterprises dominated certain activities. For instance, manufacture of tobacco products. Of the 32.75 lakh units making tobacco products, 87.2 per cent were owned by women. This is so because tobacco making comprise beedi rolling, an activity that is mostly done by women in the few States.
Another activity with significant presence of women-run enterprise include the relatively small category manufacturing chemicals and chemical products. Of the 1.73 lakh units, 68 per cent were owned by women.
Similarly, in manufacture of paper and paper products, women-run enterprises accounted for 62.9 per cent of the 1.07 lakh units. In manufacture of apparels, women-run enterprise accounted for 59.4 per cent of the 56.10 lakh units and in manufacture of textiles, women accounted for 51.8 per cent of the 26.03 lakh units.
Retail trade
In trade, women presence was mostly seen in retail trade but proportion of enterprises run by them was less than a tenth of all such enterprises — only 9.8 per cent of the two crore units. Retail trade is the largest activity category in the informal sector — almost every third enterprise was engaged in retail trade, which includes small kirana stores selling daily necessities.
The report also showed that States such as Telangana and West Bengal had relatively higher proportion of women-run enterprises compared to many other States. Over 37 per cent of the enterprise in Telangana and early 33 per cent of those in West Bengal were run by women.