ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Occupational Mobility of Dalits in Pre and Post-Colonial India


Maurya Seema - Jawaharlal Nehru University, Centre for the Study of Regional Development, New Delhi, India


14 – Servitude and Mobility in Pre-Colonial and Colonial South Asia


 The discriminating norms of work and behaviour that arises out of the caste system have resulted in intergenerational discrimination in the labour market. Given the historically deplorable conditions, Dalits (or Scheduled Castes) still are at disadvantage. The paper attempts to examine the occupational mobility of the Indian workers in consideration with their caste identity. To examine the changing pattern of the employment structure in post-colonial India, the paper uses unit level data of National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) on Employment and Unemployment for the years 1983, 1993, 2004/5, 2011/2 and 2020/21 at the feasible level of National Occupational Classification (NCO) of India. The paper thoroughly analyses the pre-colonial employment structure of Dalits through literature and tries to examine the change in their employment structure in modern India. The paper finds that there has been a significant improvement in the representation of Dalits in the process of economic diversification over the time. However, their presence is substantially low at the top of the occupational hierarchy. It is the Upper Castes (UCs) that have been continuously enjoying the superior positions in the occupational hierarchy. In post-colonial modern India, the paper provides ample evidence in support of the argument that there is the existence of the identity-based exclusion of Dalits from the managerial and supervisory role in the labour market.