IIHS is a co-investigator in a study entitled ‘Child Care Practices of Women Working in the Informal Sector’. This was a formative study (2016–17) that was done with the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa, with field assistance from Asiye eTafuleni, Durban, WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing), with technical oversight by the World Health Organisation. The formative study has led to possible interventions that will be further researched and piloted in a follow-up study phase from 2018–19 in relevant study sites.
This investigation stems from the fact that informal employment unquestionably remains a dominant form of work for most urban Indians, and continues to be associated with precariousness. Despite the magnitude of this population, little is known about health care practices and knowledge among workers in the informal sector, and especially regarding child-care practices. Thus, this study explores how women working with precarious quality of employment such as those described above, in addition to economic vulnerability that makes other meaningful employment choices impossible, navigate the need and choice to work with the requirements of breastfeeding and child care. The comparative aspect of this study, between India and South Africa, aims to determine the effect of informal working conditions on health choices and behaviour for women.
The investigation into the relationship between the work environment and child care was done through a qualitative survey and focus group discussions. The qualitative survey was conducted with over 90 women in four sectors of work to assess women’s simultaneous management of their productive and reproductive roles. The Indian study was conducted in select neighbourhoods with North and East Delhi (Jahangirpuri, Raghubir Nagar, Anand Vihar, and Sundarnagari) with the field assistance from the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA). Women in these settlements were engaged in fruit and vegetable vending, traditional pheri work, domestic work and home-based work.