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Poverty, Dietary Imbalance and Sickness among Casual Labourer Households in Shillong (India)

Listed author(s):
  • SK Mishra

    (Dept. of Economics, NEHU, Shillong)

  • JW Lyngskor

    (Department of Economics, North Eastern Hill University, Shillong India)

The objective of this study is to bring out the case of poverty, undernourishment and health conditions of casual labourers in Shillong, the capital city of Meghalaya, India. A large section of the unskilled labourers work as casual workers. Casual labourers are those workers who work for a very short duration (for a few hours, a day or at most a few days under a single contract) for an employer, and who are (usually) paid for their labour either at the end of the contract or at the end of a day. Casual workers are often unskilled or semi-skilled; they usually do not own any other factors of production (such as land, capital or implements needed to perform the job) except their labour power. Casual labourers earn their livelihood by selling their labour power and often regenerate their labour power by 'investing', so to say, a very large part of their wage earning on food articles. Thus, in case of a casual labourer, the dichotomy of consumption and investment collapses into a single category. Due to low level of consumption, casual labourers are often poor performers - their efficiency is low. The market forces often impose on them the vicious circle of inefficiency - low wage rates - deficient consumption - inefficiency. The study is based on the primary data collected from 125 casual labourer households with 688 family members. Overall, it is found that casual labourer households in Shillong are poor; their per capita income (per month) is Rs. 516.6 on an average and they spend a meager amount (Rs. 252.9 only or 48.95 percent of income) on food articles yielding energy. Some 38.4 percent of these households are below poverty line (fixed at Rs. 396 per capita per month). Poorer households have larger family size. Consequently, some 46.5 percent persons in the sample households are below poverty line. The mean energy intake of these households is slightly less than 1600 calories per person per day. The average energy intake among the BPL households is a meager 1307.66 calories per person per day. Only 19 households have calorie intake larger than 2000, and of them only 14 get more than 2200 calories. Of 125 households, the majority (93) have no milk consumption. Overall, carbohydrates supply 76.5 percent of the energy intake and the contribution of proteins to the calorie intake is ranging between 9.55 and 10.64 percent across different income and food habit groups with the mean value of 10.16 percent. Irrespective of the per capita income group that they belong to, the casual labourer households, without a single exception, eat diets deficient in proteins far below the prescribed norms. Of the total number of 688 persons in 125 households, 72 (10.47 percent) are found chronically sick. Among the 72 sick persons, 56 (77.78 percent) are in the BPL income group, 34 (47.22 percent) are children in 0-14 years age group, and 23 (31.94 percent) are adult women. Among the sick, the overwhelming majority indicates nutritional deficiency. Children and women are hit most hard by the dietary imbalance in food. Logit analysis on incidence of sickness suggests that the probability of a person being sick is very high (0.5 or more) in the extremely poor households. The probability of finding a sick person at about per capita income of Rs. 600 per month is 0.10 and it declines sharply with an increase in income.

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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Others with number 0505012.

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Length: 14 pages
Date of creation: 19 May 2005
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpot:0505012
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 14
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  1. SK Mishra & JW Lyngskor, 2005. "Nutritional Aspects of Poverty among Casual Labourer Households in Shillong (India)," Urban/Regional 0504006, EconWPA, revised 23 Apr 2005.
  2. Mishra, SK & Lyngskor, JW, 2003. "Real Wages of Casual Labourers in Shillong (India)," MPRA Paper 1810, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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