Urban Labour Markets in the 21st Century: Dualism, Regulation and the Role(s) of the State

Habitat International, 2007

28 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2008 Last revised: 19 Sep 2014

See all articles by Smita Srinivas

Smita Srinivas

Technological Change Lab, Columbia University


This paper is concerned with two questions: When and how does society at large (through State, intermediary organizations, labor unions, etc.) institute a set of supports to minimize schisms in the labor market? How exactly do these schisms evolve in response to changing technical standards in industrial production and services many of which are increasingly globally regulated? This paper attempts to sketch some phenomenological features of urban employment in India to address these questions. First, it discusses dualism of the labor market to understand how the division of labor institutionalizes certain rules for economy-wide use. Second, it contends that the State is torn between multiple goals and cannot be treated monolithically. Third, it explores how dualism within the labor market is affected by changing global technical standards and the newer forms of industrial relations that emerge. The argument is that for institutions to embrace both efficiency and equity a shared understanding of goals and procedural language is required between actors and a close attention to the everyday work process of organizations and individuals. Technical regulations and standards permeate industry in diverse ways and exacerbate existing tensions between varied State priorities and make more unclear the costs and context for distributing uncertainty and ensuring cooperation around issues such as training and insurance. The paper lists some salient features of the construction sector in Bangalore, India. Finally, it briefly discusses the relevance of this approach of dualism and institutionalization in the face of technical standards for the Millennium Development Goals and Decent Work agendas.

Keywords: Institutions, State, Labour markets, Globalisation, Technical standards, Urban construction sector, India, Decent Work

JEL Classification: 017, 018, 033

Suggested Citation

Srinivas, Smita, Urban Labour Markets in the 21st Century: Dualism, Regulation and the Role(s) of the State. Habitat International, 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1099502

Smita Srinivas (Contact Author)

Technological Change Lab, Columbia University ( email )

400 Avery, 1172 Amsterdam Avenue, MC 340
New York,, NY 10027
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