While all chief wage earners in urban socio-economic category (SEC) E households segment are unskilled workers, most are above the age of 45 years and have barely attended primary school. Less than one-third have made it through middle school. The defining characteristic of this segment is, therefore, low education and skills and, consequently, low income. The overwhelming majority—95%—of households earn less than Rs 3 lakh per year, with less than 1% making it into the affluent, more than Rs 10 lakh category. The few places where such affluent households are found in this segment are Thane, Ahmedabad, urban parts of Gautam Buddh Nagar district, Mumbai, Ernakulam, Delhi, etc.
Also See | Household Size (PDF)
Household sizes are generally large—the majority have five or more members. Yet, a little under one-quarter of the households have just one or two members. This is, therefore, a segment with diverse family characteristics—two-thirds of houses have no senior citizens, while one-third has no minors. Some 35% of households have more than two minors, the joint families showing their presence in this segment. Households with a greater number of minors are found largely in the northern states. Urban areas of Bareilly, Gautam Buddh Nagar, Faridabad, Agra and Patna top the table with more than 55% of households having more than two minors. Expenditure in this segment, therefore, spans all age groups and all family types, making this large sub-segment of urban households an attractive, albeit low-income market.
Manufacturing, construction, transport and communication, and agriculture are the major sectors offering employment to these unskilled workers. Manufacturing is dominant in smaller towns such as Muzaffarpur, Varanasi, Virudhanagar, Bhavnagar, Faridabad, Aligarh, etc., while agriculture dominates in the urban areas of districts such as Palakkad, Raigarh, Thrissur, Bellary, Sangrur, etc. The majority of chief wage earners in this segment find work as casual labourers, while around one-quarter have regular salaried jobs and a little more than a quarter are self-employed. Given their low skill levels, the self-employed would also be involved in agriculture, trade, etc.
Photo Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Just over half the households have a single earning member; in the rest the chief wage earner’s income is boosted with contributions from either adult children or spouses. In a quarter of the households, spouses work outside the homes, with a larger proportion of participation in southern and western states. Most spouses also have low education—just around 18% have been to middle school, the highest level of schooling attained in this segment. Yet one thing is quite clear. Even though all the adults have low education levels, the children in this segment would be going to school as the value of education has been realized by all sections of society.
Around 70% of households live in homes owned by the chief wage earner. Television sets dominate among other assets, being present in more than 85% households, followed by two-wheelers in around one-quarter of households and refrigerators in about one-fifth. Cars and microwaves remain out of reach of most of these households. The dominance of television sets shows in media indicators as well—television takes up the highest time spent daily, with newspapers and radio a very distant second. The Internet has very little penetration overall, but households in Gurgaon, Mumbai, Ahmednagar, Thiruvananthapuram and Rohtak spend significant time on this medium.
Gapahic by Paras Jain/Mint