The Electronics Industry in India employs about 4.5 million employees and the Government’s National Policy on Electronics seeks to increase this number to 28 million by 2020. Positive projections about the growth of the sector are in stark contrast with the wages and living conditions of workers employed in the manufacturing units across the country. The major concerns include low wages, virtually no union representation, and a lack of awareness among workers about labour legislations and occupational hazards. Such issues are prominent in the electronics manufacturing hub of South India.

The 8 year history of the Nokia SEZ, from its establishment to its closure in 2014, highlights the problematic nature of public and private investment in manufacturing and its negative impact on workers and surrounding communities. This case brought to fore the importance of community involvement in industrial development and employment policy.

To address the social and environmental challenges in the growing electronics manufacting sector, Cividep engagement with the industry is coordinated through the Workers Resource Centre (WRC). The main focus has been to increase workers’ awareness about labour laws, conduct studies on working conditions and the implementation of national and international standards, and involve industry stakeholders to address gaps in regulation.


Information, Capacity Building and Worker Engagement

Challenge: Lack of awareness among workers of their rights
Strategy: Worker engagement through trainings, study circles, and legal assistance
Cividep engages with workers through the Workers Resource Centre established in 2013 as a meeting place for workers who are otherwise dispersed geographically within the industry. Regular worker education and trainings are conducted on labour laws, grievance redressal mechanisms, women workers’ rights, freedom of association, social benefits and occupational safety.
Handbooks have been compiled in Tamil as a workers education series on various legislations, particularly laws that affect women, migrants and a precarious workforce.

Research and Monitoring

Challenge: To understand the rapidly evolving electronics manufacturing industry and associated concerns
Strategy: Monitoring and documenting the impact of production management on workers lives
Since the inception of the electronics industry in South India, Cividep has been conducting studies for a solid understanding of the workers’ experience in the industry. Cividep’s reports analyse expansion of the industry, employment practices, implementation of labour standards, occupational health and safety, freedom of association, and collective bargaining. Findings are drawn upon primary and secondary data. These studies are the building blocks of Cividep’s work to highlight ground realities to a range of buyers. In this endeavour, Cividep partners with civil society organisations to advocate at national and international levels for improvements in labour conditions.

Stakeholder Engagement for Labour Advocacy

Challenge: Lack of priority given to quality of employment and environmental impact within the mainstream development agenda
Strategy: Building relationships with multiple stakeholders to advocate for a
people & environment sensitive production model

From 2009 to 2012, Cividep in partnership with like-minded organisations has conducted several research projects to lay a solid foundation in understand the issues faced by workers in the electronic sector. Three key reports were published in this period.Corporate Geography, Labour Conditions and Environmental Standards in the Mobile Phone Manufacturing Industry in India – in partnership with SOMO (Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations), Cividep published this report that served as a groundwork for future activities undertaken by the organisation in the area. The report dealt with an overview of the main players in the industry including Company Profiles and Codes of conduct, Government policies as well as labour standards and working conditions of workers employed in these companies.

Cividep presents data-driven evidence to highlight the sub-standard conditions under which electronics goods are produced. The focus is to shape worker-friendly and pro-environmental policies and increase public sensitivity on issues like e-waste, precarious employment practices, public health risks, and industrial investment policies. This is achieved through seminars, roundtable meetings with government bodies, multi-stakeholder forums, industry representatives, educational institutions, trade unions, other civil society organisations, and the youth.