Urban Livelihoods in India

What is Urban Livelihood?

India is recognized as an agricultural country for over decades now. A majority of Indian GDP is primarily generated in urban areas. The prime reason behind this is that the concentration of capital in these areas. Urban areas are the hub of opportunities for every individual. Occupation in urban areas in India is vast, and thus, it comes as no surprise that urban areas receive most of the Indian GDP. That being said, there are distinguishing types of urban livelihood that you might come across in India. Let’s explore these urban livelihood types to learn in-depth about urban livelihood. 


What is Urban Livelihood?

Urban areas, in a nutshell, are defined as areas where modernization took place. These areas generally consist of an extensive population. For instance, metropolitan cities such as Bangalore, New Delhi, Mumbai, and so on are urban areas. Livelihood, on the other hand, is simply defined as the lifestyle of an individual or their occupation. Thus, the civics chapter on rural and urban livelihood covers the basic details into distinguishing forms of urban livelihood. You will learn about the lifestyles of different people, jobs available in the industry, and the functioning of different urban areas or cities. 


Types of Urban Livelihoods 

  1. Urban Livelihood of Street Workers 

In cities and towns, you might often come across several individuals working in the streets. For instance, ice-cream sellers, vegetable vendors, rickshaw pullers, cobblers, and so on, are some of the working individuals that you may stumble across on streets. These are recognized as self-employed individuals. Moreover, they don’t work in permanent shops. Their occupation is carried out from anywhere and anywhere. While some of these individuals move around in cycles, some of them live and maintain their work in shacks. About a majority of these workers briefly migrate from rural areas to earn money for a living and provide for their family. 

  1. Self Employed Business 

Another type of urban livelihood is those of the self-employed business. Clothe stores, cafes, medicine shops, and other such businesses are run by self-employed businesses. These are individuals that establish their own organizations. Several businessmen are even worth billions. For instance, businesses that established multinational corporations and even other small business owners. These businesses are categorized into the organized sector and unorganized sector. When it comes to occupation in urban areas, organized sector businessmen are those whose businesses and accounts are monitored. In unorganized sectors, small businesses invest money on their own and make profits steadily. 

  1. Organized Sector Workers 

Most of the urban livelihood falls into this category of working professionals. For instance, civil engineers, doctors, and marketing managers are some of the workers that fall into this category. They are bound to earn the maximum salary annually in the city. However, they don’t work on hourly wages like that of labourers. These workers have access to a wide range of perks, unlike the factory labourers. Some of these perks may be medical insurance, the company’s retirement plan, paid leaves; and so on. Due to this, these types of jobs are in extreme demand. Cities consist of the rich and the poor. This extreme gap that coexists in urban livelihoods is rather unfortunate and saddening. 

  1. Factory Workers 

Lastly, urban Livelihoods also consist of factory workers. These individuals aren’t formally employed. Due to this, they briefly are categorized into the unorganized sector. While you now know what is urban livelihood, factory workers are solely unofficially employed individuals for urban livelihood occupation. Occupation in urban areas is vast and comprehensive. Factory workers work at the convenience of the employer. They further earn a drastically small amount of income for the work they do. Labourers that lift Harvey packages, sewers in clothes factories, etc., are some examples of this type of urban livelihood. 


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Solved Examples 

1. For registering for a Trade Union, how many Persons are required? 

About a minimum of seven workers of an organization are allowed to form a trade union and further apply for the registration to the registrar. While registration of trade unions is not mandatory, it is considerate since registered trade unions have access to specific privileges and rights under the act. 


2. What is Labour Chowki? 

Labour Chowki, in simple terms, is a platform or a place where the daily wage labourers have to wait with their respective tools. Herein, employers come and hire these daily wage labourers for work. 


3. How would the Patwari have resolved the dispute between Raghu and Mohan? 

The patwari would have primarily measured Raghu and Mohan's fields, after which he would have made a comparison between them to calculate the exact measurements of the fields. If these measurements did not match, the patwari could get clarity into the fact that the boundary of both the fields was altered.

FAQs on Urban Livelihoods in India

1. What does the Chapter Urban Livelihoods in India give clarity to? 

Urban Livelihoods in India is a vast chapter that focuses on the different types of urban livelihoods that exist in India. Urban areas are those that consist of a vast population of the country. This population, moreover, is a mix of all sorts of people ranging from vegetable vendors, factory workers, civil engineers, firm managers, and so on. The chapter gives insight into the lifestyle of these individuals, the occupations they have, and the cities they live in. In brief, the chapter educates students on the urban lifestyle in India. 

2. Which Category of Workers do the majority of the Urban Livelihoods consist of?

The workers of the organized sector are seen in almost every urban livelihood. This is because the occupations of these workers are in high demand. For instance, a majority of the population of India is working in these fields. These fields include- medical, engineering, entrepreneurship, and so on. These types of workers usually gain the highest salary compared to other workers in the city. However, they do not receive hourly wages but annual salaries. Cities comprise all types of population, starting from the rich to the poor. These people thus are bound to coexist in society.

3. Explain the types of urban livelihood in detail?

Urban areas refer to modernized places with a huge population. There are four types of livelihood prevalent in urban livelihood, that is, street workers, factory workers, self-employed businessmen, and workers in organized sectors. 


The urban livelihood of street workers includes vegetable vendors, ice-cream sellers, cobblers, rickshaw pullers, and more who are self-employed people with no permanent shop for them to carry out their occupation. Most of these workers have migrated from villages in search of earning more money by selling their products in shacks or moving around on bicycles. Since it is their basic right to earn a living, therefore, the government has started with many schemes to ensure their protection.


Self-employed businessmen are those people who have started their own enterprises like shopkeepers of medicine shops, clothes shops, or a cafe. Some businessmen are billionaires, for example, the owners of multinational companies while some are small enterprise owners, for example, the owner of a sweet shop.


These self businesses can be of the organized sector ( that is, accounts and businesses are recorded) or unorganized sector. Businessmen invest their own money into starting and gradually start making profits.


Factory workers are people who are not formally employed and thus, fall into the unorganized sector. Besides, they work as and when their employer wants them to and earn a very small income for their work, that is, on an hourly basis and it is not enough for them to subsist on generally. Some examples are sewers in clothes factories or laborers used for lifting heavy packages.


Workers in the organized sector, for example, a marketing manager of a company, a civil engineer working on bridges, or a doctor working in a hospital who earn the highest ‘salary’ in the city per month, but they don’t earn ‘hourly wages’ like laborers. Apart from high salaries, they also have some added benefits, like having a company’s retirement plan, a company’s medical insurance, having paid leaves, unlike street workers or factory laborers.

4. What is the story of Bachchu Manjhi discussed in chapter 9 urban livelihoods?

The story of a cycle-rickshaw puller named Bachchu Manjhi was discussed in chapter 9 NCERT, that is, Urban livelihood. Bachchu Manjhi is a mason worker from a village in Bihar. He did not get masonry work regularly due to which his income was not enough to support his family of a wife and three children. Therefore, he came to the city and bought an old rickshaw in installments. He used to pick customers from the bus stop and ride them up to 6 kilometers in the surrounding areas and used to work till late evenings. He earns Rs 10 - 30 per trip. He said he lives in a rented room with his friends who work in a nearby factory. His daily income is approximately 200 - 300 rupees per day and spends 100 - 150 rupees on rent and the rest he saves for his family. His wife works in agricultural land in the village which is once in a while and he visits his village twice or thrice a year.

5. How is urban livelihood different from rural livelihood and how are they both similar to each other?

Urban livelihood and rural livelihood are very different from each other in terms of the pattern of living, lifestyle, and economical condition of people. 


The major differences between urban livelihood and rural livelihood are that rural livelihoods are based upon primary activities like farming and fishing while urban livelihoods are based upon secondary and tertiary activities like manufacturing and services. Rural livelihood involves living with and being sustained by nature while urban is city-based living and involves a range of activities like IT jobs in the government or private sector, clerical and professional jobs. Urban areas have a large migrant population whereas rural areas have negligible migrants. Jobs in rural areas are generally inherited like carpentry, blacksmith, and more while in urban areas job inheritance is not possible until and unless you don't own a business. The rural areas provide less opportunity to earn income as compared to the urban areas. The rural areas lack industries, infrastructure which is very commonly found in urban areas.


Apart from so many differences, there are still some similarities between rural and urban livelihoods, like, poverty exists in both rural and urban areas, there are some common jobs existing in both rural and urban areas like teaching, shopkeepers, trading, barbers though the scale of their work may differ. The daily wage laborers exist in both rural areas as employment in farms and in urban areas as well in the form of employment in a factory. Women are a part of the major workforce in both rural areas (in the agricultural fields) and urban areas in the form of professions like teachings, IT, medicine, and BPO's. Both rural and urban areas constitute a dependent population that is not engaged in any work, that is, the elderly people and the children.

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