Sociology of Work and Health

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSLS2SC2124

Semester and Year Offered: 2nd Semester (Winter Semester 2017)

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr. Rinju Rasaily

Email of course coordinator:rinju[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: NA

Aim: The aim of this course is to engage students in understanding the key perspectives around work and health using a sociological lens. It seeks to focus upon the changing perspectives around work and health particularly in contemporary India. Although there are varied perspectives on Sociology of work the dimensions of understanding the interlinkages between work and health will be the distinctive area of investigation. The pedagogical engagement and assessment of students will be carried out through active class participation based on the readings as well as field visit/s to either factories/ sites of organising workers. The latter would empirically provide them insights and enable them to raise questions of sociological relevance.

Course Outcomes:

  1. With a public health perspective, students will be able to perceive‘health’ as a crucial sociological indicator.
  2. Fieldwork as an assessment componentwould empirically provide students insights and enable them to raise questions of sociological relevance linking with readings and lectures.
  3. This course should enable the students to reflect and think upon everyday life situations of those engaged in various forms of work activities and its associated precariousness to health along the fractured lines of marginalities of caste, class and gender.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Unit 1: Basic Concepts and Methodological Issues on Work and Health

This unit underlines the basic concepts around work and health by examining the elements of conditions at work, the meaning of workplace; health, disease, illness and injury and hazards at workplace. The key methodological issues used in the understanding and key determinants of health are introduced in this unit. This would provide clarity on the various methodologies that can be adapted in the understanding of health issues at work.

  1. Basic concepts
  2. Work/Workplace
  3. Conditions at work
  4. Health, illness and disease
  5. Injury and Hazards at workplace
  6. Gender and health
  7. Methodological perspectives on Work and Health

Unit 2: Perspectives on Work and Health I

Public Health, Workplace Health and Safety and Epidemiological Perspectives

This unit on Perspectives on Work and Health unit begin with a historical overview on industrialisation process and its aftermath with respect to conditions at work and health in Great Britain then linking the colonial/administrative measures taken in India. Three key perspectives are used in understanding health - the public health perspective, the workplace health perspective andthe epidemiological perspective. Through select readings on these approaches the sociological dimensions at work particularly in the changed context towards flexible specialisation and work informality in the present context is addressed.

  1. Public Health
  2. Workplace wellbeing and workplace safety
  3. Epidemiology

Unit 3: Perspectives on Health II

  1. Ecology
  2. Socio-cultural aspects to health
  3. Socio-cultural and Ecological perspectives

This unit addresses on two other perspectives on health – the socio-cultural and the ecological through the discipline of medical anthropology and human ecology. How community/society responds to and addresses to questions around health and ecology are examined through select readings in this module thereby enabling students to get a understanding around the interface between socio-cultural and ecological domains and health.

Unit 4: Organisation of Work and Informality in contemporary India

This unit seeks to reiterate the need to understand how certain nuanced factors, for instance informality of work in contemporary India gets juxtaposed in proritising health needs. Importantly, with flexibilisation of work in a post-globalised era leads to negative health outcomes. Using both qualitative and quantitative insights this unit draws associations with precariousness of work, work organisation and health outcomes.

Informality and precariousness

New forms of work organisation

Flexible work and health

Unit 5: Changing forms of Industrial Relations and collective bargaining

This unit on industrial relations draws attention to the sociological and anthropological studies around industrial labour across sectors. It also brings forth the changes in the nature of collective bargaining processes in contemporary India.

  1. Industry and labour
  2. Understanding industrial relations
  3. Shifts in forms of collective bargaining

Unit 6: Regulatory Framework and Policy Building

This last unit on regulation framework and policy building, caters to examining the regulatory frameworks that particularly exist for the organised as well as the unorganised sectors with respect to conditions at work and health. By examining various policy documents and the critiques around it, the course also gets enriched with understanding the key findings from macro data from sources such as the National Sample Survey Organisation.

  1. Labour legislations: an overview
  2. Understanding reforms and its health implications

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Attendance and In-class participation 25%
  • Field visit (group assignment) 20% (2nd week March)*
  • Group Presentations 20% (3rd week March)
  • End-Term paper 35% (2nd week April)
  • * Field visit will be arranged by the Course Coordinator

Reading List:

  1. Antunes, Ricardo. 2013. The Meanings of Work: Essays on the Affirmation and Negation of Work (Historical Materialism Book Series). Netherlands: Brill.
  2. Baum, Frances. 1995. Researching Public Health: Behind the Qualitative – Quantitative Methodological Debate, Social Science and Medicine, Vol 40 (4), pp 459-468
  3. Park, K. 1995. Park’s Textbook of Preventive and Social Medicine, 14th Edition, Banarsidas Bhanot Publishers, Jabalpur, pp 11-22.
  4. Ravindran, T.K. Sundari. 1992. Engendering Health, Seminar 396, 21-25.
  5. Wilkinson, Carol. 2001. Fundamentals of Health at Work, The Social Dimension, London, Taylor & Francis, London, Chapter 1.
  6. Engels, Frederick. 1845. The Condition of the Working Class in England, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 41-62.
  7. Leigh, J. et al. 1999. Global Burden of Disease and Injury due to Occupational Factors, Epidemiology, September, Vol 10 (5), 626-631.
  8. Navarro Vicente and Leiyu Shi. 2001. The political context of social inequalities and health, Social Science and Medicine, Vol 52, pp 481-491.
  9. Nichols, Theo. 1987. The Sociology of Industrial Injury, Mansell Publishing Ltd, London,Chapter 5, pp 81-120.
  10. Qadeer, I. and Dunu Roy. 1989. Work, Wealth and Health: Sociology of Workers’ Health in India, Social Scientist, Vol 17 (5/6), May-June, 45-92.
  11. Ostlin Piroska. 2002. Examining Work and its effects on Health in Gita Sen et al (Ed.): Engendering International HealthThe Challenge of Equity, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 63-81.
  12. Akram, Mohammad.2014. Sociology of Health. Jaipur: Rawat.
  13. Benton, T. 2003. Ecology, Health and Society: Red-green perspectives in Williams, S.J., Lynda, B, & Gillian, A.B. Debating Biology: Sociological reflections on Health, Medicine and Society. Routledge (pp.283-297)
  14. Sujatha, V. 2014. Sociology of Health and Medicine:New Perspectives. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, Delhi.
  15. Benach, J. 2002. The consequences of flexible work for health? Are we looking at the right place? Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, Vol 56, Issue 6, pp 405-406.
  16. Breman, Jan. 1996. Footloose Labour: Working in India's Informal Economy. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  17. Neethi, P. 2009. Globalisation Lived Locally: New forms of control, conflict and response among labour in Kerala, examined through a labour geography lens, Working Paper, Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum.
  18. Week, Kathi. 2011. The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics, and Postwork Imaginaries (A John Hope Franklin Center Book) Paperback: Duke University Press.
  19. Ahn, P.S. and Ahn, Y. 2012. ‘Organising Experiences and Experiments among Indian Trade Unions: Concepts, Processes and Showcases’, The Indian Journal of Labour Economics, 5(4): 573–593.
  20. Bhattacharya, Sabyasachi & Rana P. Behal (eds.) 2016. The Vernacularization of Labour Politics. New Delhi: Tulika.
  21. Bhowmik (2012): Industry, Labour and Society, Orient Blackswan, Delhi.
  22. Das A. and R. Agarwal (eds). 2000. Down and Out: Labouring under Global Capitalism. New Delhi: OUP.
  23. George, S.(2007): Unionisation and Collective Bargaining in India: Contextualising the Disciplining of Labour Space in the Flexibility Regime, Labour File, Vol 5, Nos 1 &2
  24. Kling, B.B. (1998): Paternalism in Indian Labor: The Tata Iron and Steel Company of Jamshedpur, International Labour and Working Class History, 53, pp 69-87
  25. Sen, Sukomoal (2013): Working Class of India, History of Emergence and Movement 1830-2010, Prajasakti Book House, Hyderabad, pp 31-50
  26. Sundar, K. R. S. 2015. ‘Industrial Conflict in India in the Post reform Period: Who Said All Is Quiet on the Industrial Front?’, Economic and Political Weekly, 50(3): 43–53.
  27. Acharya, Binoy (undated): Occupational Health and Safety in India: Legislations Inadequate, Society for Participatory Research in India, New Delhi
  28. Banerji Debabar. (2014): Political accountability for Outbreaks of Communicable diseases. Economic and Political Weekly, Vol 29 (13), 29 March 2014, pp 13-15.
  29. Ghosh, Piyali an.d Shefali Nandan. 2017. Industrial Relations and Labour Laws. New Delhi: McGraw Hill Education.
  30. Roychowdhury Anamitra. 2015. Recent changes in labour laws and their implications for the working class, Sanhati, January 13, 2015( )
  31. Shiva Kumar, A. K. 2010. Inequities in Access to Health Services in India, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol 45 (38) pp 49-58


  1. George, Sobin and Shalini Sinha Eds. 2017. Redefined Labour Spaces: Organising Workers in Post-Liberalised India. Routledge.
  2. Upadhya, Carol. 2016. Reengineering India: Work, Capital, and Class in an Offshore Economy. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  3. Day, Arla. et al. (eds.) 2014. Workplace Well-being: How to Build Psychologically Healthy Workplaces. UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
  4. Banerji D. 2005. Politics of rural health in India, Indian Journal of Public Health Vol 49 (3), pp 113-122.
  5. Giddens A. 1971. Capitalism and Modern Social theory, Cambridge University Press, chapter 4, pp 46-66
  6. McElroy, A., & Townsend, P.K. 2009. Medical Anthropology in an Ecological Perspectives. West View Press, Chapters 1, 4& 9
  7. Agarwala, R. 2013. Informal Labour, Formal Politics and Dignified Discontent in India. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press.
  8. Holmstrom, Mark. 1984. Industry and Inequality. The Social Anthropology of Indian Labour, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge in association with Orient Longman.
  9. NCEUS. 2009. The Challenge of Employment in India: an Informal Economy Perspective, New Delhi: National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector, on 19 April 2015).
  10. Breman, Jan. 2012. Outcast Labour in Asia: Circulation and Informalization of the Workforce at the Bottom of the Economy. New Delhi: OUP.
  11. Datt, Ruddar, (ed). 1997. Organising the Unorganized Workers. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House.
  12. Davala, Sarath.1994.The Unprotected Labour. New Delhi: Friedrich Ebert.
  13. Seminar. 2003. Footloose Labour: A symposium on livelihood struggles of the informal workforce. No. 531, November.
  14. NSSO Report (2014): Key Indicators of Social Consumption in India- Health, NSS 71st Round (Jan- June 2014), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, GOI.
  15. Website of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for policy documents. (