Advertisement for Research Study on: Labour Market Dynamics and Industrial Relations in the Brick kiln Industry


Research Study on:

“Labour Market Dynamics and Industrial Relations in Brick kiln Industry” (Closed)


As a part of the Project:

“Empowering CSOs for Decent Work and Brick kilns in India’s Brick kilns”


Centre for Education and Communication (CEC) seeks independent consultants to conduct a research study entitled ‘Labour Market Dynamics and Industrial Relations in the Brick kiln Industry” as a part of the project entitled “Empowering CSOs for Decent Work and Green Bricks in India’s Brick Kilns”. 


Interested consultants are invited to submit detailed CV and Expression of Interest (EOI) marked “Labour Market Dynamics and Industrial Relations in the Brick kiln Industry” to CEC, 173-A, Khirki Village, Malviya Nagar, New Delhi - 110017 or e-mail application to on or before 20 September 2016.





1.   Introduction

2.   Statement of the Problem

3.   Purpose of the Study

4.   Methodology and Sampling

5.   Significance of the Research





It is generally accepted that brick kiln is among the industries in India which perpetuates bonded labour, identified as one of the contemporary forms of slavery by national and international agencies, in large numbers. Mostly it is seen as emerging from the traditional nature of brick kilns and from the fact that people work against advances that they take. Consequently efforts have been to release and rehabilitate bonded labourers from the kilns as explained earlier through the instrumentality of BLSAA or to provide credit to workers so that they are not compelled to take advances. The study seeks to go beyond these approaches and explore the persistence of bonded labour in kilns from a multiple sets of criteria. The study intends to understand the dynamics of the labour market considering the fact that the brick kiln industry brings together hundreds of thousands of kilns and millions of workers year after year. It will explore the constants as well as the changing factors in the labour market - the organisation of the industry, its division of labour and the sourcing and distribution of labour.



1.   Introduction


India produces 200-250 billion clay bricks annually, the second largest producer of clay fired bricks, accounting for more than 10% of global production, in 150,000 to 200,000 brick kilns (Labour File, 2014). Building construction in India is estimated to grow at a rate of 6.6% per year between 2005 and 2030 (Maithel, 2014), which has got a greater push after Government of India’s Make in India campaign. The building stock is expected to multiply five times during this period, resulting in a very large increased demand for affordable building material, clay-fired bricks. Each brick kiln employs between 250-300 workers, bringing the total number of workers to approximately 20 million (Labour File, 2014), which is roughly 4 per cent of a total of 459 million (NSSO, 2002) workers in India, of which almost 40% are women. The NSSO data also shows a decrease in agricultural employment (10% point between 2004-05 and 2011-12) and increase in rural non-farm employment in rural areas, construction & brick kilns being among the main absorbents.

In India, brick making is typically a manual process. The brick kiln industry is seasonal and operates in the months of October/November to June/July ceasing the production process before the arrival of monsoon every year. With archaeological findings indicating the practice of manufacturing fired bricks since the 3500-2700 BCE in the early Indus valley civilization of India, the centuries old informal and traditional phenomenon of production still persists with very less technological innovations in the industry till present times. The Indo-Gangetic plains of North India comprising the states of Assam, Bihar, Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh (UP), and West Bengal account for about 65% of the total brick production of India. The peninsular and coastal India comprises the remaining 35% of brick kilns. The brick industry is a major source of livelihood in these states and enjoys significant political influence despite being a major contributor to air pollution coupled with major violation of labour laws (Vajpayee, 2016).



2.   Statement of the Problem


The Brick Industry in India is characterized by traditional methods of production technology that contributes to the prevalence of labour employment practices involving bondage and modern day slavery. The 2016 Global Slavery Index estimates[1] that 45.8 million people in the world are engaged in some form of modern slavery and 58 percent of those are living in the countries of India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan. The estimated number of people living in modern slavery in India is 18,354,700 and 51 out of 100 people in India are vulnerable to modern slavery.

Debt bondage appears to be the fruit of numerous factors coming both from the supply side (employers’ constraints and motivations) and from the demand side (workers’ constraints and motivations) (Bhukuth, Guerin, Parthasarthy, & Venkatasubramanian, 2007). Poverty, drought, malnutrition, starvation, anaemia, caste and many other socio-economic issues force the workers to migrate (Menon, 2014). Government initiatives like The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act could have addressed the issue of unemployment to a large extent, if it were implemented well. However, there are problems regarding the failures and delays in receiving payments, lack of employment through the year, providing jobs to only one member of the family, corruption and poor administration.

A large chunk of the workforce that migrates from remote villages in search of employment ends up as bonded labour in brick kilns. Brick kiln workers, mostly belonging to the Dalit and the Adivasi communities migrate as families against an advance received from the contractor before/after arriving at the kilns and they work towards repayment of that amount on the basis of a piece-rate system of compensation which is calculated per thousand bricks.  According to Gupta (2003), the piece-rate system hides the necessary labour time and the variations in the strength of the team, as also the contribution of invisible workers.

Chopra (1982) states that bondage in the brick kilns appears as the traditional method of appropriating the labour of women and children as they become attached to the dependant males in their life cycle. For most of the women it is the husband’s decision to work in the kiln. Women workers are mainly engaging with moulding and loading the bricks. A case study of the work and family life of women in the brick industry by Gulati (1997) showed that there is a “rigid compartmentalisation of work” on the basis of sex.

In addition, there is a widespread prevalence of child labour in the kilns. Majority of the child workers are found in the moulding process only, which is very long and hard for a single worker. The workers are pressurised to make their children work in the kiln like moulding clay or carrying raw material. And the inability of these children to get educated only complicates this vicious circle. With little or no access to schools in and around the area, such children remain deprived from education (Basak, 2016).

Workers enter the brick kiln labour market in the condition of vulnerability, which is exploited by the industry (John, 2014). The factors that accentuate this vulnerability are caste, landlessness and chronic illiteracy. Two factors guide the workers into an employer-employee relationship that is exploitative and akin to slavery. These are – (i) the role of contractor and (ii) the power of the monetary advance or loan, as a pre-requisite for gaining employment in brick kilns.  Contractors are central in the structuring of the labour market in brick kilns. They are usually from the same caste as that of the workers, demonstrating certain rigidity in the brick kiln labour market (John, 2014). The contractor identifies the workers, links them to a kiln, gives them advance, ensures that they work to repay the loan, monitors the workers so that they do not run away and ensures that the employer does not lose money that has been advanced. This aspect of the labour market dynamics existing in the brick kilns perpetuates the bonded labour system which remains a dominant feature of the brick kiln industry.

The contractor can be seen as part of a triangular relationship: contractor-community, contractor-employer and contractor-worker. The relationship is continuous through the ‘work-cycle’ of the labourers before, during and after they work in the kiln. Policy planners realized the importance of regulating the ‘mode of recruitment’ to protect interests of workers. The state promulgated the Inter State Migrant Workmen Act (ISMWA) to regulate recruitment of inter-state migrant workers, though it has not been effective in protecting the rights of migrant workers. In Maharashtra, the employment of head loaders in market yards is regulated through Mathadi Boards formed under a state act. However this example has not been replicated widely. The workers as a group are not organized and therefore not in a position to negotiate with the employers for decent wages and work conditions or put pressure on the state to legislate Mathadi like legislation. The labour contractors and the employers prefer to avoid formalization.

While on the one hand there are a number of Industrial, Environmental and Labour standards that are applicable to the Brick kiln Industry, very less implementation or formal measures have been adopted in a full-fledged manner and there is no law or act that pertains to the brick kiln industry alone. Such a law/act is much awaited both by the trade unions as well as the brick kiln owners in the Industry. However, this industry needs to follow various laws of Central government including Minimum Wages Act (1948), Equal Remuneration Act (1936), Factories Act (1948), Interstate Migrant Workmen Act (1979), The Maternity Benefit Act (1961), the Workmen’s Compensation Act (1936), the Bonded Labour Systems (Abolition) Act (1976). These laws are intended to improve the social security, working and living conditions of the workers, protecting rights of women and child workers in the industries.

But the factor of concern regarding the unorganized sector workers in the brick kilns is their unawareness towards their various rights and entitlements. Entitlement towards decent working conditions is a basic labour right. According to a report by Anti-Slavery International (2015), the lack of effective action against bonded labour has been exacerbated by a failure to protect workers’ rights. The extra working hours, hostile working conditions affecting health of the workers and lower remuneration for work are a characteristic of the brick kilns in India. Siddharth Kara, who has spent more than a decade researching modern slavery in South Asia, puts the weighted average annual profits at $920 per bonded labour and revealed that the brick making industry is the highest contributor[2]. However, the worker remains alienated from these figures, much so owing to the persistence of illiteracy across generations.



3.   Purpose of the Study


3.1 Rationale

3.1.1 The Project

Decent Work and production of green bricks are the two pillars of the project entitled – “Empowering CSOs for Decent Work and Green Bricks in India’s Brick Kilns” that are not mutually exclusive but complimentary. It envisages creative engagements between these two perspectives in theory and in practice. This project will work towards enabling CSOs to become harbingers of positive and transformative change encompassing social, economic and environmental concerns through: (i) Structured knowledge creation and knowledge dissemination relating to factors that perpetuate slavery like conditions and prevent inclusion in brick kilns (ii) Building CSO capacities on aspects of decent work and social protection. The project attempts to promote green bricks through addressing issues of pollution, encouraging energy efficient designs and top soil conservations. It addresses diversity, by affirming inclusion not by homogenizing but by acknowledging and respecting the diversity and countering aspects that make diversity grounds for exclusion. The project seeks that this transformative change is supported by a conducive policy ecosystem. The project demonstrates institutional mechanisms for promoting decent work and green bricks that are comprehensive, sustainable and replicable. The objectives of this action are:

(i)             Overall objective: To usher sustainable change through decent work and green technology in India's brick kilns.

(ii)           Specific objective: To increase the capacity of CSOs including human rights groups, labour organizations, child rights organizations, CSOs working on green technology, brick kiln manufacturers associations, workers’ associations and local authorities to perform their roles more effectively to ensure inclusive ‘decent work’ in brick kilns and produce ‘green’ bricks.

3.1.2 The Research Study

Through this particular research study entitled- “The Labour Market Dynamics and Industrial Relations in the Brick kiln Industry”, the project intends to understand the dynamics of the labour market considering the fact that the brick kiln industry brings together hundreds of thousands of kilns and millions of workers year after year. Though brick kilns form a part of the industrial sector, there is no evidence to indicate that social relations are subsumed; rather, they are reasserted and used as a means of exploitation. There is a segmentation that exists in the labour market based on caste. This segmentation begins before the workers enter the kilns. Rooted in the notions of certain castes being good at certain occupations, each task category in the brick kilns has its separate dedicated caste category. These categories cannot be interchanged. Like the labour market, recruitment is also organised along caste lines with advance forming the backbone of this system.

3.2  Research Objectives

The objectives of this research are twofold:

·      To explore and investigate the constants as well as the changing factors in the labour market - the organisation of the brick kiln industry, its division of labour and the sourcing and distribution of labour.

·      To explore and investigate the Industrial relations existing at the Brick kilns.


3.2.1 Research Questions

The following are the research questions that will form the guidelines of this study:

(i) Labour Market Dynamics

a)     Understand labour market parameters in source and destination states and locate brick kiln industry in terms of

(i)      Percentage employed in regular formal work,

     (ii)     Work participation rate,

(iii)  Percentage employed as casual labour,

(iv)   Percentage of self-employed workers below poverty line,

(v)      Average wage of casual labourers,

(vi)    Unemployment Rate

b)    Features of the demand and supply of labour in the kilns

(i)     What is the extend of demand for workers?

(ii)    What kinds of skills are in demand?

(iii)  How are the workers sourced?

(iv)   How are the workers absorbed into the brick kiln industry?

c)     How does the flow of information work in brick kiln market? Information on the industry,            location, employment benefits, wages, accommodation, working hours, other rights etc.

(i)     Who are the intermediaries? What role do they play?

(ii)     How does ‘advance’ work in the labour market? Is this avoidable?

(iii)     Significance of the mediating factor of the role of contractor/middleman in the recruitment process. What are the workers’ and owners’ perceptions regarding the contractor’s role?

d)    From a labour market perspective, what gives employment in brick kilns a bonded labour character? How factors like seasonal employment, advance, contractor, caste, family labour, and preference to return for agricultural work determine this aspect?


(ii) Industrial Relations

e)     How labour is deployed in brick kilns

(i)     Determining factors

(ii)    Existence of job contracts

f)     What are the methods of determining wages in the kilns and how wages are paid?

g)    What are the conditions of work, in terms of

(i)     Nature of employment (regular, casual, temporary, seasonal etc)

(ii)    Working hours

(iii)    Leaves

(iv)    Facilities available at work

h)    What are the social security benefits available to brick kiln workers and how do they access those?

i)      How women’s labour is constituted in brick kilns

(i)     How does women’s labour contribute to production of bricks and reproduction of labour? How women’s labour valued?

(iii)     How harassment at work including sexual harassment is dealt with in the brick kiln industry?

j)      Is trade union present in the brick kiln industry? What role do they play?

k)     Is there a Dispute settlement mechanism available in the brick kilns? What specific roles    do the trade unions and labour administration play in such situations?




4.   Methodology and Sampling



This study will be undertaken in all the project locations i.e. the destination states and source states (Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odhisa). The secondary data will be collected from the review of the available literature pertaining to the brick kiln industry.

4.1 Methodology

The study will be carried out through following method:

a)     Review of available literature

b)    Direct observation

c)     Semi-structured interview with workers and owners

d)    Open ended interview with CSOs

         4.2 Sampling

To achieve the objectives, the primary study will be conducted with a sample size of 3 percent of the target population (10,000 workers) of the workers of the project in 30 brick kilns in the three states- Rajasthan, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh. This would also include 30 brick kiln owners and CSOs in these states engaged in areas similar to the research themes of this study. To collect data on different aspects of workers, the study will classify the population in accordance to the age, gender, caste to understand the participation of women/child labourers and caste based division of work.


Survey sites

The study would target in the following states


Brick kilns






Utter Pradesh


100  (10 workers from 1-brick kiln)




100 (10 workers from 1 brick kiln) 




100 (10 workers from 1 brick kiln)



4.3 Data Collection


The data of workers will be collected through personal interview along with following parameters;

a)   Personal profile including education, caste, gender, age

b)  Migration and recruitment

c)   Labour-relation with recruiters and owners

d)  Working and living conditions

e)   Accessibility of basic amenities-food, housing, drinking water etc.

            The data of owners will collect through personal interview along with following parameters;

a)     Contact information

b)    Bricks production

c)     Perception towards workers rights and entitlements

d)    Mode of Labour Recruitment

e)     Adherence to Regulations pertaining to Industrials Relations at the brick kilns

The data of CSOs will be collected through questionnaire method along with following parameters;

a)   The current engagement of CSOs

b)  The perceptions of CSOs over the issues of human /labour/child/gender

c)   The experiences of CSOs with brick kilns


4.4   Duration of the Study

The study needs to attain completion within a period of 45 days from the date of commencement.


4.5  Indicative Chapterisation of the Study

The guideline for the chapterisation of the study is as follows:

1.     Introduction/Overview

2.     Review of Literature

3.     Research Methodology

4.     Findings and Discussion

4.1  Labour Market Dynamics

4.1.1      Labour Market Parameters in Source and destination States and Locate Brick Industry in the Study Areas

4.1.2      Demand and Supply of Labour in Brick Kilns

4.1.3      Flow of Information in the Brick kiln Market  Role of Intermediaries  Significance of the ‘Advance’ payment system in Brick Industry

4.1.4      Characteristics of Bonded Labour in Brick Industry

4.2  Industrial Relations

4.2.1      Methods of Labour Deployment in brick kilns

4.2.2      Wage Determination and Payment

4.2.3      Conditions of Work at the Brick Kilns

4.2.4      Social Security aspect of the workers

4.2.5      Gender aspect in the Brick Kilns

4.2.6      Role of Trade Unions in brick kilns

4.2.7      Dispute Settlement Mechanism and role of concerned authorities

5.     Conclusion

6.     Recommendations towards Project Implementation

4.6 Possible limitations of the Study

There will be certain limitations during the data collection process. As the brick kiln manufacturing process is seasonal in nature, accessibility of workers for conducting interviews in the destination states will be more convenient during the operating season (Oct/Nov- May, June) as compared to the lean seasons. This would also depend on the Brick kiln Owners willingness to allow access into the brick kilns. A strategic and inclusive approach needs to be developed to convince the owners for the same and also conduct interviews with them at the same time. To conduct data collection at the source states, the challenging factor would be to track the source areas wherefrom the brick kiln workers are recruited.



5.   Significance of the Research

The study will look at the operation of the labour market, its dynamics, demand and supply factors, information flows, instrumentalities, trends etc. The research will help us understand how the labour market is organised: what are the various kinds of work, what determines them and how this can be changed; the process of value creation at each stage will be understood along with the contribution of each actor in it. The facts gathered from this study will facilitate the achievement of the intended results of the project- “Empowering CSOs for Decent Work and Green Bricks in India’s Brick Kilns”.

Experiences in the past 30 years suggest that there are inherent constraints in The Bonded Labour Systems Abolition Act BLSAA. The strategy of the government and other stakeholders has been to work within a human rights framework – addressing bondage as one of the worst forms of human rights violation - and as a strategy release the person from that situation. However this strategy has not helped the workers to completely get out of bondage and often, even after release, they are found falling back into other forms of bondage (CEC, 2010).

Human rights CSOs have worked around identification, release and rehabilitation of bonded labourers within the framework of BLSAA. Environmental CSOs facilitate transition into less energy consuming and less polluting technologies like natural draught zig-zag kiln or vertical shaft brick kiln (VSBK). Nevertheless, CSOs have worked in a mutually exclusive fashion, without any efforts to build synergies. Integrating the essence of diversity would mean doing away with caste based, regimented, advance-linked, contractor dominated labour market characteristics as well as the organisation of the industry that thrives on non-innovation and gendered, feudal labour relations. The present action intends to address this gap. The bastions of rudimentary technology as well and a regimented work allocation of near captive workforce of the marginalised dalit, adivasi and migrant workers need to be broken simultaneously.

There is also the need for an alternative system of getting employment rather than through an agent/contractor. The project envisages setting up of Worker Skill Development Centre (WSDC) and piloting of a Labour Employment Exchange with the objective of doing away with the regimentation of work, promoting diversity at work and advocate with local/state/national authorities to facilitate non-discriminatory recruitment & labour relations. The WSDC will train dalits and adivasis in trades that currently are not assigned to them. It will also prepare the workers for expected technological shifts in brick manufacturing.

 Key outcomes of the WSDC will be livelihood enhancement through a combination of curriculum-based and on the ground vocational training, workers equipped with the skills required for various tasks in the brick kilns, workers from any occupation associated with the kilns get opportunity to learn skills, quality trainings in keeping with the industry needs thereby bridging the gap between demand and supply of skilled labour, link up with the employment exchange for enabling access to employment opportunities, and trainee’s database for effective hand holding. It is necessary that in this work there is an engagement with industry alongside the engagement with the workers. Brick kiln owners will be exposed to green kilns and to those kilns striving to observe labour standards. This study is intended to guide the project action towards the achievements of the stated objectives.





·        Basak, V. (2016, April 30). Smile Foundation India. Retrieved June 29, 2016, from

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