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The project team wishes to thank the Ford Foundation and the

National Science Foundation for their support of the study. All


findings and views reported here are those of the authors.

Acknowledgements
Sincere thanks go to the respondents from our study slums who
contributed so much of their time and knowledge throughout the
course of the study.
VULNERABILITY TO CRISIS IN LUCKNOW, INDIA
THE ROLE OF ASSETS IN MITIGATING RISK

JANUARY 2005

A Study conducted by:


Paula Kantor and Padmaja Nair, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Oxfam GB in India
With
Grameen Development Services, Laxmi, Lucknow Mahila Sewa Trust
and Sarathi Development Foundation
VULNERABILITY TO CRISIS IN LUCKNOW, INDIA
THE ROLE OF ASSETS IN MITIGATING RISK

4
PREFACE

A house is both more and less than a home for urban slum-dwellers in Lucknow,
India. It is more because, for most people, especially women, it is also the workplace.
It is less, because physically, it may be built of cloth and cardboard and, legally, the
resident may lack secure tenure. In the twelve slums whose residents are the subject of
this study, about half the sample population was poor at some point during the study
period. They had limited education and skills, low-wage and uncertain employment,
inadequate health and sanitation services that contributed to ill-health, and they
lacked access to financial and productive resources. They were thus more vulnerable to
natural and life-cycle risks and less able to recover from untoward events such as
floods or illness. Although they owned and built assets, crises such as illness depleted
their assets rapidly, and slowed recovery and asset rebuilding. By examining the
temporal and dynamic effects of poverty, in addition to measuring it, this study adds
an important dimension to our understanding of the lived experience of poverty. It
yields critical information about ways to reduce poverty and vulnerability. These issues
are of great interest to the Ford Foundation as it has adopted an asset building
strategy to address the key mission goal of poverty reduction.

By following households over three years, this study shows how people often move in and
out of poverty, even in a short time span. In keeping with findings from other parts of the
developing world, it shows that low-income people can and do save. Even on meagre
incomes, they struggle to build assets. Surprisingly, they invest in improving their homes
even when tenure is insecure. They deploy their assets strategically to mitigate risk and
prevent the inter-generational transmission of poverty. In order to preserve their assets,
even at very low levels of consumption, people prefer to lower consumption further rather
than liquidate assets. They invest in children’s education to ensure them a better future.
The study also shows, however, how quickly the assets of low-income people can be
depleted in times of crisis. Bouts of illness and the death of the main breadwinner are

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VULNERABILITY TO CRISIS IN LUCKNOW, INDIA
THE ROLE OF ASSETS IN MITIGATING RISK

especially damaging to economic security and asset preservation. The direct and
opportunity costs of these events are so high that they propel low-income people into
debt—a factor that significantly undermines asset-building. It highlights the importance of
access to “better” sources of loan funds and to insurance products for low-income people.

The study makes a strong case for improved access to employment and income for
low-income women. Again, as in other developing countries, the study found that the
poorest households were most dependent on women’s incomes. Yet low-income
women were employed in the lowest paying and most insecure jobs. They often worked
at home under sub-contracting arrangements, their productivity and incomes were low,
they had no benefits and they lacked bargaining power with employers and middle-
men. Their children had to forego school because they were needed to assist with paid
and unpaid work in the home. Security of tenure and housing conditions mattered
greatly to women and other slum-dwellers for whom the workplace was in the home.
It affected their ability to access jobs, their productivity and incomes. Low-income and
low-caste people, with least secure tenure, and women were also disadvantaged in
their ability to influence the political and economic system and public and private
actors to improve their situation.

The inter-linkages between urban poverty and livelihood insecurity, combined with
inequality of power relations, argue for broad-based responses. Improvements will require
interventions that address the rights of the urban poor and, at a minimum, provide better
access to labor and financial markets, land, housing and services. They will require citizen
education and training for civic action. To be effective, interventions will have to be done
on a large scale that involves collaboration between various actors—researchers, activists,
governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). As a first small step in this
direction, this study involved collaboration between researchers at the University of
Wisconsin, Oxfam GB in India and four local NGOs—the Grameen Development
Services, Laxmi, Lucknow Mahila Sewa Trust and Sarathi Development Foundation. It built
application into the research process by attempting to demonstrate the importance of
designing research-based interventions and by building research capacity in the NGOs.
We hope the findings will inform the design of better policies and interventions to improve
the lives and livelihoods of urban slum-dwellers in Lucknow and elsewhere.

Rekha Mehra
Program Officer, Economic Development
Ford Foundation, New Delhi
November 1, 2004

6
CONTENTS

Introduction and Project Overview 9


Study Methodology 11
Key Concepts: Vulnerability, Assets and Responses 13
Key Study Findings 15
– Income Security 15
– Working Hard to not Get Ahead 19
– Education: Investing in The Future 21
– The Burden of Ill Health 23
– Food Security 24
– Financial Security 25
– Home and Land as Bases of Security 27
– Non-illness Stress Events and Response Strategies 29
– Gender and Vulnerability 31
Study Recommendations and Conclusions 35
References 38
Appendix 39
VULNERABILITY TO CRISIS IN LUCKNOW, INDIA
THE ROLE OF ASSETS IN MITIGATING RISK

8
INTRODUCTION AND PROJECT OVERVIEW

In the past, poverty analysis in India has focused primarily on the rural sector, reflecting
India’s agrarian nature. However, India has recently started urbanizing rapidly: between
1991-2001, the overall urban population growth rate was 31 percent, compared with an
overall population growth rate of 21 percent and a rural rate of 18 percent. As a result of
this rapid urbanization, India has a growing problem of urban poverty that demands
research and policy attention.

This study was designed to respond to this research need. Its aim was to develop an
understanding of the dynamics of poverty in urban India by examining:

• Differences between households in access to income and assets;


• How differences in access to income and assets are associated with exposure to
different financial events (i.e. illnesses, death, loss of work, flood, fire, spending on
religious festivals, marriages and dowry); and
• How households respond to financial events, linked to their ability to access and
control assets.

Vulnerability is not just a household-level concept: there also may be differences between
household members’ vulnerability. These arise because of intra-household differences in
exposure to events and access to assets, and differing involvement in decision making
relating to participation in planned events and responding to unplanned events. The study
collected data at both the household and individual levels in order to test for evidence of
intra-household differences in access to and control over assets, and in vulnerability.

The study aims were met by integrating both qualitative and quantitative research methods
to address the following hypotheses.

1. We hypothesized that characteristics at the individual, household and community levels


influence the abilities of households and individuals to access and control income and
to diversify their asset base. Specifically:

• A number of factors at the community level were expected to increase household


vulnerability, for example: slums having been in existence for fewer years; illegal
land status; proximity to drainage ditches or refuse dumps; lack of basic
infrastructure services; concentration of low-caste households; and a lack of
NGO presence or community-based organizing.
• At the household level, household size; having a female head of household;
being Hindu of low caste; being Muslim versus Hindu; having few workers in
the household; low status and autonomy of women in the household; lack of
access to financial capital; recent migration to the city; a lack of education; and
isolation from community networks were characteristics expected to increase
household vulnerability.

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VULNERABILITY TO CRISIS IN LUCKNOW, INDIA
THE ROLE OF ASSETS IN MITIGATING RISK

• Individual-level risk factors included gender; age; lower education levels; lack
of skills training; insecure employment and occupation status; and low share of
household income.

2. Households with smaller and less diverse asset bases were expected to experience
more financial crisis events – particularly unanticipated events – relative to those
with large, diverse asset bases. Other factors expected to increase the number of
events experienced included household size, gender of head of household, the
presence of very young and elderly household members who may be more prone
to illness, and lower levels of education. Income was expected to influence the
experience of planned events, with higher income households more able to
participate and thus participating more often in social events and religious
festivals. Community identity was also expected to influence the experience of
financial crisis events, in that different social groups may face more or less pressure
to participate in social and religious events and may have different standards
guiding levels of participation in festivals.

3. In the South Asian context, theory points to likely intra-household disparities by


gender in experiences of, and responses to, financial shocks. Data was collected to
track how different household members were affected by the events experienced
and the selected response strategies. We expected that girls and women would be
most likely to experience declines in consumption and that when asset sale or
mortgaging forms part of a crisis response, households would rely first on assets
held by women, such as household utensils or jewelry.

This research project applied a longitudinal panel study design to the problem of
urban livelihood insecurity, studying residents of urban slum settlements in Lucknow,
India multiple times over a 33-month period starting in September 2001. It was a
collaborative project, based on a partnership between the University of Wisconsin-
Madison and the Lucknow office of Oxfam GB in India. Oxfam then involved four local
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the study to carry out fieldwork and
develop interventions based on the results. We also integrated two research fellows
into the study, who conducted their own related studies and assisted with the overall
project. Building the research capacity of the local NGOs and research fellows formed
part of the project objectives (see Process Fact Sheet), as did the provision of inputs to
Oxfam’s development of an urban livelihoods program in India. The study provides a
good model of how to build academic-NGO collaborations to conduct applied
research programs.

10
STUDY METHODOLOGY

The study focuses on twelve informal settlements within the municipal corporation area of
Lucknow (see Context Fact Sheet). In order to understand how vulnerabilities and
strategies of adaptation and avoidance change over time, the study team collected three
rounds each of qualitative and quantitative data. The issues addressed in the qualitative
rounds varied from period to period while the survey topics remained constant over time
to allow us to assess change.

Slum selection
The twelve study slums were selected according to predetermined selection criteria; one
criterion was that a partner NGO was working in the slum. The NGO presence helped in
building rapport with the residents and increased the respondents’ willingness to stay
involved in the project over the multiple rounds of data collection. The research team
developed other selection criteria to ensure that the study communities were as
representative as possible of the diverse poor urban population in Lucknow. The selection
criteria included a range of characteristics such as physical location within the city, size
and age of the settlement, caste and religious composition, primary occupations, land
tenure issues and presence of obvious risk factors like drainage canals and railway lines.
The NGOs involved in the project submitted lists of the slums in which they worked, plus
any available information about each slum. These lists formed the basis of slum selection.
Appendix 1 lists the twelve selected slums and their characteristics.

Only two of the study slums were primarily Muslim. However, in the end the household sample
was over 50 percent Muslim, well over the estimated share of Muslims in the city (26 percent).
While this may be valid to the extent that Muslims are concentrated in lower-income areas of
the city, we must remain aware of this over-sampling when we attempt to generalize the results
to all slums in Lucknow. Finally, all of the Muslim Shias in the sample came from one slum,
Thathar Colony. This slum is very poor in terms of facilities, and has the highest concentration
of female-headed households and problematic tenure status. Thus, the status of Shias in our
sample does not necessarily represent all Shias in the city.

Qualitative data collection


Focus group discussions
Much of the qualitative work in the first and second rounds of research involved focus
group discussions, integrating participatory exercises as appropriate. In the first
round, the aim of the focus groups was to understand how the slum residents
characterized vulnerability by having them describe families at high and low levels of
vulnerability. Discussions were held separately with men and women to determine
whether perceptions of vulnerability differed by gender. Few differences emerged
overall, although women placed more emphasis on lack of access to basic services,
and the problem of ‘lazy male earners’ (men who failed to fulfil their traditional role
of breadwinner), as indicators of high vulnerability.

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VULNERABILITY TO CRISIS IN LUCKNOW, INDIA
THE ROLE OF ASSETS IN MITIGATING RISK

In the second round, the NGO partners took a larger role in defining the qualitative data to
be collected. Based on their knowledge of the slums and the analysis of the quantitative data
from the first round, they identified key issues they wanted to address in greater depth. The
purpose in the second round was to probe deeper into these specific issues using new slums
similar in characteristics to the project slums. We wanted to confirm and validate attributes of
vulnerability, and understand in greater depth why people act as they do and how they
perceive different events. The issues addressed varied across the NGOs and included the effects
of irregular work, the impact of ill-health, spending on festivals, the importance of saving, and
issues around women’s labor force participation.

In-depth household interviews


In the first and third rounds, the NGO partners conducted in-depth interviews with selected
households in the study slums. In the first round, these households were selected based
on the focus group results, where participants identified families in the settlement at high,
medium and low levels of vulnerability. One interview was conducted with a family at each
vulnerability level in each slum, and these three families were also included in the sample for
the quantitative survey. The interviews focused on what events were experienced, how
households responded, who in the family was burdened by events and response strategies,
and who decided how to respond to a negative change.

In the third round we used the data from rounds one and two to select families and issues to
follow up with a more in-depth discussion. Many of these families became income-poor or
were poor and remained in that state during the study period. We focused on particular issues
that we wanted to understand in more depth, such as the importance of education to financial
security, the burden of debt, or the impact of a major crisis like becoming a widow.

Quantitative data collection


Household surveys
For the quantitative part of the study, we randomly selected forty households per slum
to interview with a survey asking questions about the household and individuals in the
household. Note that while the NGOs were active within the selected slums, they did
not choose the households we included in the study; the respondents were selected
through a random process. The survey included sections on housing, access to
services, land tenure, consumption spending, saving and other income sources at the
household level, and demographics, labor force participation, assets, events, debt
and illnesses at the individual level. The individual-level data were obtained by
interviewing all adult members in the family. In the first round the sample size was
479, declining to 458 in the second round and 433 in the third, due to attrition. The
overall attrition rate was 14 percent.

12
KEY CONCEPTS: VULNERABILITY, ASSETS AND RESPONSES

Vulnerability is defined as exposure to risk, shocks and stresses, resulting from some sort of
unplanned environmental change.1 There are two dimensions of vulnerability, external and
internal. Risks, shocks and stresses are common terms illustrating external vulnerability while
internal vulnerability refers to a household’s inability to cope with these external changes
without experiencing damaging loss. Vulnerability is a more complex concept than poverty, in
that it has a dynamic quality, making it better-suited to capturing changes in socioeconomic
status (in contrast to poverty’s focus on current socioeconomic status). Thus, studies of
vulnerability can improve our understanding of how to facilitate long-term improvements in
people’s well-being within a changing external environment.

Household livelihoods are vulnerable to external changes or risks. A livelihood is protected


against outside risks by the level and diversification of the assets a household can claim. Thus,
building assets is a key means through which to reduce external vulnerability and to improve a
household’s ability to respond to unavoidable events.2

Assets can be classified in diverse ways, but the main categories are physical or productive,
financial, human capital, social capital, and natural capital (see Box 1 for examples of these
categories). These different types of assets protect household livelihoods against external risks.
Based on this protective role, the extent of one’s vulnerability is indicated by a household’s

Box 1: Examples of different types of assets

• Productive assets: work equipment, land, secure tenure, good quality housing.
• Financial assets: savings in money form, jewelry, gold. Debt is a negative
financial asset.
• Human capital assets: spending on education and preventative health care, levels
of education, experiences of illness, training and skills.
• Labor: part of human capital but central to urban poverty and vulnerability due to
the great dependence on income in urban areas. Dependency ratios, occupation
and employment status, work days and regularity of work, worker characteristics
(age, sex).
• Social capital assets: networks though which people access jobs, credit, help in
times of need; organizations or institutions with which one interacts. One needs to
examine net claims as these relationships are two-way and can be a drain. They
can also be negative or exploitative, for example patron-client relations.
• Natural assets: access to natural resources such as clean air, water, land. In urban
areas this access is mediated by other interests, since access to basic services is not
guaranteed and is often politicized, and tenable legal land for housing is limited.

1
Chambers 1988; Wratten 1995; Moser 1998
2
Chambers 1988; Swift 1988; Chambers and Conway 1992; Moser 1998; Sebstad and Cohen 2000;
Rosenzweig and Wolpin 1993

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VULNERABILITY TO CRISIS IN LUCKNOW, INDIA
THE ROLE OF ASSETS IN MITIGATING RISK

ability to survive a crisis without irreversible damage to its productive capacity or net assets.
Diversifying one’s asset base is the best way to accomplish this, resulting in a more secure
livelihood.3 In assessing assets and vulnerability one must also consider context-specific
structural factors such as caste, class, race or gender that may limit one’s ability to transform
assets into the necessities of survival, namely food, secure housing and income. Thus, cultural
norms and expectations related to gender, caste, race or class may mediate individuals’ or
households’ abilities to utilize their asset bases effectively in times of crisis, increasing their
vulnerability.

What are the different sources of risk that urban poor households face, and how do
households respond to events, both proactively and reactively? ‘Risk’ is a broad term:
there are many different types of risks, arising from different sources, and characterized by
differing frequency and impacts.4 Three different sources of risk include:
• Structural factors: inflation, seasonality and weather patterns that may result in
floods or droughts;
• Unanticipated shocks and crises: unemployment, serious illnesses and
hospitalization, the death of a main earner, fire, harassment by city officials and the
bulldozing of settlements; and
• Lifecycle events: marriages, births, festivals and rituals. These are expected events
but still cause a large drain on household finances.

The source of risk can determine its frequency and nature. Often the risks associated with
structural factors are covariate, meaning they affect all households at the same time. Such
risks are generally infrequent, but may be repeated. Shocks and crises tend to be low
frequency, though some illnesses may be a high-frequency risk. Shocks tend to be
idiosyncratic, affecting individual households versus entire communities, and occur
randomly. Lifecycle events affect individual households (marriages, births) or communities
(rituals and festivals) but are not random in that they are expected to occur as households
move through their lifecycles.

Responses to risk vary according to the frequency, source and nature of the risk in
question. Households may develop proactive strategies to guard against risk as well as
reactive strategies to adapt to it after an event has occurred. Proactive strategies may
include building up a diverse asset base; investing in insurance programs to guard
against income losses due to illness, death or maternity; and saving money and
managing household finances well (i.e. avoiding extraneous expenditure, especially on
leisure activities such as gambling and drinking). Strategies to adapt to external changes
after they have occurred may include the selling or pawning of physical assets, taking
loans, reducing consumption or putting more people into the labor force.

3
Grootaert, Kanbur et al. 1995; Chambers 1997
4
Sebstad and Cohen 2000; Lund and Srinivas 2000

14
KEY STUDY FINDINGS
INCOME SECURITY

Access to a secure and adequate income is a vital component of a secure livelihood. This is
true from the perspective of the urban poor themselves; focus group participants listed access
to a regular secure income as a characteristic of the least vulnerable households. It is also true
because of the central role income plays in enabling access to other valued items such as
health care, education, housing and services, savings and financial security. While it is true
that access to income does not guarantee that other valued outcomes can be achieved, it is a
crucial first step on the way to sustained livelihood security.

A considerable share of households in the Lucknow study did not have access to an
adequate, secure income. Twenty-five percent of the study sample started the study in an
income-poor state (per capita monthly income less than 518 Rs (11 US $) and remained there
throughout the study period. Ten percent faced the challenge of multiple swings in income,
moving in and out of poverty over the 2.5-year period; 8 percent fell into poverty, and 19
percent escaped. The largest group – 38 percent of the households – avoided income poverty
altogether (Fact Sheet 1). Table 1 below shows how households in different income poverty
status categories vary in their asset holdings and demographic characteristics. Interestingly, few
demographic or structural factors affect income insecurity. Only caste differed across the
categories while the number of female-headed households, length of residence in the slum
and mean household sizes did not. In the rest of the report, including the fact sheets, we
examine some of these asset categories as well as the experience of events in more detail. We
integrate gender differences into the analysis throughout. The symbol at the top of the fact
sheets indicates gender-desegregated results.

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VULNERABILITY TO CRISIS IN LUCKNOW, INDIA
THE ROLE OF ASSETS IN MITIGATING RISK

Characteristics Stable and income Entered poverty Exited and re-entered Entered and re-exited Exited poverty Non income poor
poor (n=110) (n=35) poverty (n=22) poverty (n=21) (n=74) (n=162)

Demographics • More Muslim • Few high-caste • Few high-caste Hindu • Few high-caste • Few high-caste Hindu households • Hindu scheduled caste
Shia households Hindu households households Hindu households and high-caste households

Labor mobilization • Main earners in domestic • Stable person-days of work; • Increasing person-days • Many vendors • Person-days of work increased • Main earners in salaried and
and artisan work not a reason for movement of work; highest in • Low dependence on female labor between rounds 1 and 3; part of self-employed service work
• High dependence on into poverty R2 and R3 • Reduction in work days in round 2, reason why households became • Low dependence on female labor
female labor • Few children work • Few children work increased to round 1 level by round 3; non-poor • Low person-days of work; high quality work
• Low person-days of work; days of work reason for multiple • Large decline in dependants • Stable dependency ratio
low quality work transitions • Higher share of children work
• Large decline in dependants • Few children work

Financial assets • 68% save; 50% borrow • 68% save; 65% borrow • 82% save, 50% borrow • 73% save; 48% borrow • 78% save; 52% borrow • 90% save; 35% borrow
• Lowest saving balance • Dependent on loans to pay • Loans outstanding 1.4 • Loans outstanding 2.5 times • Loans outstanding 2.0 times • Highest saving balance
• Loans outstanding 2.5 times for ill health times monthly income monthly income monthly income • Loans outstanding 1.6 times monthly income
monthly income • Loans outstanding 4.8 times
monthly income

Physical assets • 44% pucca 5 homes; • 52% pucca homes • 65% pucca homes; improvement • 76% pucca homes • 55% pucca homes; • 82% pucca homes
improvement over the study • 62% have own electric connection over the study • 78% have own electric connection improvement over the study • 75% have own electric connection
• 44% have own electric • 34% have own water connection • 61% have own electric connection • 38% have own water connection • 63% have own electric connection • 60% have own water connection
connection • 49% have hygienic toilet • 30% have own water connection • 48% have hygienic toilet • 36% have own water connection • 73% have hygienic toilet
• 19% have own water • More than half live on • 50% have hygienic toilet • More than half live on illegal land • 58% have hygienic toilet • Few live on illegal land
connection illegal land • Few live on illegal land • More than half live on illegal land
• 43% have hygienic toilet
• More than half live on
illegal land

Education • Most educated in household • Most educated in household • Most educated in household • Most educated in household • Most educated in household • Most educated in household
has only 6.5 years of has 8 years of education has 8 years of education has 10.5 years of education has 8 years of education has 12 years of education
education • 79% of children in school; • Only 57% of children in school; • 79% of children in school; • Only 63% of children in • 82% of children in school; 78% in
• Only 62% of children in school; 90% in private school 65% in private school 47% in private school school; 57% in private school private school and half of these
45% in private school in English medium

Health • Second highest total illnesses • Lowest total illnesses (5.7), • Highest total illnesses (8.9), • 6 illnesses on average • 6.7 illnesses on average • Low total illnesses (5.8)
(7.6), spend second lowest but spend second highest spend the least on treatment • Spend the most on treatment, have
on treatment to treat them • Vulnerable to ill health due ability to pay for higher quality care
• Vulnerable to ill health due • Meet costs of ill health through to inability to treat illnesses
to inability to treat illnesses loans

5
Pucca homes are secure, good quality homes, with walls and roofs made of brick or concrete.

16 17
VULNERABILITY TO CRISIS IN LUCKNOW, INDIA
THE ROLE OF ASSETS IN MITIGATING RISK

18
WORKING HARD TO NOT GET AHEAD

Labor is a key asset for the urban poor; in Lucknow it is the primary means through which
families accessed the income required to meet their basic needs. How families allocate
labor, the quality of the labor power available, and cultural constraints on who can work
and in what activities are primary determinants of income security and hence the ability to
continue to invest in labor and build other assets. Many urban poor households depend
on the informal economy for their income, and this often leads to labor strategies where
families work hard, but do little more than survive.

Families in Lucknow who earned their primary income from salaried work were
considerably better off than those dependent on casual labor, self-employment or
piece rate earnings. Thus, improving entry into employment with regular and
relatively high earnings is vital to improving urban livelihoods, implying that moves to
formalize the informal economy (enforcing minimum wage laws, implementing the
International Labour Organization’s home-based worker convention, improving access
to credit and secure work locations) and to provide safety nets ensuring minimum
income (welfare funds, informal sector workers bill) will assist in improving urban
livelihoods. This also requires a proactive employment policy to attract and retain
investments that create new jobs.

Improving employment opportunities requires breaking down the barriers imposed by


gender and community. Workers have socially-constructed identities, and as such they do not
enter the labour market freely and equally. In India, and more particularly in the North
Indian context, caste and religious and gender identities limit workers’ occupational
choices. It is common for women to have to work within the home, both as a result of
purdah restrictions and because of the risk of social disgrace arising from public
acknowledgement of a household’s need for women’s earnings. Thus, most women
who worked in Lucknow did so within the home, whether selling groceries or
vegetables or doing embroidery work. For most, this severely limited their income
earning ability relative to men in the same activity, or to women who could work
outside of the home (See Fact Sheet 8). Addressing socio-cultural constraints on
women’s occupation and work location choices is central to improving both their
ability to contribute to the household income and shift their family out of poverty, and
their own personal benefits from labor market participation.

Religion is more important than caste in determining occupational choices in the


Lucknow context. Irrespective of caste, more Hindu than Muslim households had salaried
work as their main income source. Lucknow is a state capital, so this difference may be a
result of discrimination in access to government employment. Muslims are concentrated in
traditional artisan work and self-employed service work, with the former being among the
most vulnerable occupational category in terms of income and the ability to build other
assets (see Fact Sheet 2). Muslims are more likely than all Hindus to have been income
poor, and more remained poor throughout the study period.

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VULNERABILITY TO CRISIS IN LUCKNOW, INDIA
THE ROLE OF ASSETS IN MITIGATING RISK

Who works and how much they work is also related to the security of their occupation.
Artisans’ insecurity is apparent from their labor mobilization strategies. They are more
dependent than any other occupational group on female and child labor. Because of this,
they have more workers in the family and more person days of work than any other group, yet
still earn among the lowest income (see Fact Sheet 2). Another group in similar traits is
families dependent on domestic service work. This subset of all female-headed households
is characterized by small household sizes, low dependency ratios and extremely low incomes.
While not all female-headed households fare so poorly in terms of income, they all tend to be
of smaller size with lower dependency ratios than male-headed households. Those who do
better have access to some male labor, often an adult (or soon-to-be-adult) son, or have more
education and thus better sources of income. This highlights men’s superior labor market
access and the need to improve women’s educational and economic opportunities in order to
improve their economic independence and the economic condition of families dependent on
female earners (see Fact Sheets 8 and 9).

Child labor is a strong indicator of current and future vulnerability. It illustrates a need to
mobilize more labor to meet basic needs and signals a greater future struggle for the child
workers to do more than survive since they may have had to forgo formal education and
training in order to work. Eleven percent of all school-age children in the sample were
working. Boys were more likely to be pulled from school to work than girls (See Fact
Sheet 3). The particular vulnerability of artisan families and the additional burden on boys are
clear: 24 percent of all children in artisan households worked and by sex, 31 percent of boys
worked and 17 percent of girls.

Irregularly-available work and loss of work days due to illness increase income insecurity.
Changes in person-days of work within the family are associated with movements into and out
of income poverty. Improving the regularity of work and income, via labor legislation on the
one hand and decreasing the risk and impact of ill health on the other, can help families plan
better for the future, motivate them to make more risky investments which often produce higher
incomes, and thus may do more to assist families in moving out of poverty.

The centrality of employment within livelihood security means the state and civil society must
work more proactively with the private sector to develop and attract more good-quality
employment opportunities to urban areas. These efforts must build the qualifications of the
labor force in a strategic way, such that they match those required by employers; hence
training programs must be given greater and more expert attention within anti-poverty
strategies. NGOs and the state must apply longer-term, market-driven vision to avoid
developing training programs which rely on traditional, sometimes obsolete skills, creating
products to supply marginal or over-crowded markets. NGOs, the state and the private
sector also must work against – instead of subtly supporting – the status quo of gender-
and community-based discrimination in economic opportunities.

20
EDUCATION: INVESTING IN THE FUTURE

Improved income security and better economic opportunities require better education.
The evidence in Lucknow shows that men and women with more education were
more likely to be in salaried employment, and earned more income. This is not a
surprising result; the relationship between education and income is established.
Nonetheless primary education does not receive the attention needed to ensure
that schools can deliver their services in the quantity and – even more importantly –
quality required to meet demand. Today’s urban youth living in slums will have few
chances for a better life in a global economy where knowledge, information and
technology will play an ever-larger role, if they cannot obtain at least a good-quality basic
education. School attendance is a problem in Lucknow, where almost one third of
school age children were not in school; slightly more boys do not attend than girls (see
Fact Sheet 3). Why is this the case?

‘To educate is a dream of all parents, but when there is no income then we cannot fulfil many
of our desires.’

This statement sums up the perceptions of poor slum households in Lucknow about the
importance and feasibility of educating both boys and girls. The demand and desire is
there, so what keeps children out of school? What are the barriers that keep parents
from fulfilling their dreams for their children? Poverty and lack of income are
barriers to education, as are low-quality school environments. Irregular work and
high numbers of dependants are additional factors contributing to difficulties in
meeting education costs. Even in government schools where fees are low, the cost of
books and copies is often beyond the reach of poor households. Failure to pay fees on
time means humiliation for children and often ends in the children being struck off the
school register. And most importantly, an unfriendly school environment with poor
infrastructure and even poorer methods of teaching and discipline are the biggest
deterrents to sending children to school.

‘In school we are beaten whenever we do something wrong. We do not like that.’

‘Studies were not good; the teachers used to teach one day and not come the next.’

The non-income poor in the sample spent more per school-going child and placed
more of their children into private schools, even private English-medium schools. They
are able to buy their way out of poor quality publicly-provided services, ensuring that their
current advantages will be maintained if not increased in their children’s generation.

The Lucknow results highlight that parents do not carry the whole burden of working to
increase children’s school attendance. Parents want to educate their children but find
obstacles in their path due to low incomes and poor-quality institutions. They do not
see the worth of allocating a portion of their low income to a service from which

21
VULNERABILITY TO CRISIS IN LUCKNOW, INDIA
THE ROLE OF ASSETS IN MITIGATING RISK

they are doubtful of receiving a return. Thus, a three-pronged strategy is needed


to improve school attendance.

• One element involves improving incomes among the urban poor so that they are
better able to afford schooling and less dependent on child labor.
• The second involves expanding incentive programs to motivate more families to
send more children to school, particularly girls. School lunch programs have had
some success in achieving this end.
• The final and most central strategy is to improve the quality of government schools
by increasing the accountability of the state and schools for the services they
provide. This will involve a partnership between NGOs and parents to set and monitor
standards for service delivery and to hold service providers accountable. This is a
challenge in Uttar Pradesh where NGO activism is low and the state is characterized by
a lack of action.

22
THE BURDEN OF ILL HEALTH

Half of the 4100 financial stress events experienced by sample households over the
2.5-year study period were non-chronic illnesses, and a further 20 percent were
chronic illnesses. While each illness alone may not have a large cost burden, the
cumulative cost over time and the effects on physical strength and productivity –
particularly when the sick person cannot afford to treat the illness or to leave work to
rest – make such events a major burden for the urban poor (Fact Sheets 4 and 5).
Evidence from Lucknow suggests that the poorest are often unable to treat their
illnesses, with a common response in the face of a chronic or non-chronic illness
being to ‘do nothing’.

Among those who do take treatment, families across all income categories do not
take advantage of public health centers or government hospitals unless they have
a major illness requiring hospitalization. Preferred providers are private clinics, which
offer longer hours, higher-quality services, more respectful treatment and the
possibility of payment in instalments. Thus, poor households pay more for treatment
than they might otherwise have to if government health services better met their needs.
Families treating illnesses meet these costs through savings, reducing daily
consumption, and at times through loans. Those who were income-poor throughout
the study were more likely to take loans for treatment; more households among the
better-off relied on savings.

Hospitalizations are more immediately financially debilitating than chronic and non-
chronic illnesses, which have more of a negative cumulative effect over time.
Though hospitalizations were not frequent events, they were quite burdensome due to
their high costs (Fact Sheet 5). In order to meet these costs, families often took loans,
used savings, or relied on charity from family and friends. Also, compared to other
event types, a greater share of responses to hospitalizations involved the sale or
mortgaging of assets, signalling the long-term reduction of human and physical
capital resulting from hospitalizations. Improved government health facilities and
insurance products to cover hospitalization costs are two means by which to
reduce the risk of a sustained deterioration following a hospitalization.

23
FOOD SECURITY

The study collected data on the various foods that households consume, in order to
understand the quality of food consumed and who in the household consumes what. We
combined the spending data to determine per capita total food spending (excluding
spending on tobacco and alcohol products), spending on staples such as potatoes,
onions, flour, rice and dal, and spending on nutritious foods that are not necessarily
staples, such as milk, eggs, green vegetables and fish or meat. Across the study period,
the mean per capita total monthly food spending was 340 rupees. This value is
marginally less than the government of India poverty line for urban areas (346
rupees per person per month). Thus, on average, families in the study slums in Lucknow
are falling just short of this minimum. In fact, across the three research rounds, 60
percent of the families studied reported average monthly per capita food spending
less than this amount. Not surprisingly, staple foods compose the major share of monthly
food spending, accounting for about 60 percent of expenditure. Non-staple nutritious
foods constituted on average 30 percent of per capita monthly food spending, while
‘special’ foods such as cold drinks, and meals and tea consumed outside the household
accounted for the remaining 10 percent of expenditure.

Another indicator of food insecurity is how many households purchase staple foods on a
daily basis. For example, between 20 to 25 percent of the sample households over
the study period bought dal, flour, and rice on a daily basis, indicating that they were
unable to purchase in larger quantities due to low income.

We also investigated the extent to which men’s and women’s access to foods – particularly
nutritious foods – differed. Reported gender-based food inequality is low among the
study households in Lucknow. For most staple and nutritious foods, over 90 percent
of the households reported that all family members ate them. Eggs are the one
exception where only 84 percent of families consuming eggs reported all ate them. Of
those allocating eggs to particular household members, a greater share reported that men
rather than women ate them. The same gender inequality is found to a greater extent
in consuming meals and tea outside of the home. These are male consumption items,
representing men’s leisure activities and their greater mobility outside of the home.

Spending on alcohol and tobacco products is related to food security in that it


represents money diverted from meeting the family’s basic needs to meeting
individual needs. These individual allocations generally go to men, with the Lucknow
data showing that more men than women consume tobacco products and alcohol.

24
FINANCIAL SECURITY

Access to savings and credit can form the basis for financial security among urban
poor households. However, it is also important to note that credit can increase
vulnerability over the long term, even as it decreases immediate consumption shortfalls. So
in the short term, credit may play a key role in meeting immediate needs for
food or medical care, but in the long term it may result in an unsustainable debt
burden. Improving families’ ability to save becomes a vital part of livelihood
improvement strategies, since families with savings tend to rely less on loans to meet
consumption needs.

Residents in the study slums in Lucknow show a high propensity to save, though
more non-poor households than any others are able to save (Fact Sheet 6). Levels of
saving varied widely across households, with the stable poor and those who
became poor having much lower median stocks of savings than the others.
These households have less adaptability in the face of larger or cumulative financial
stress events.

Average savings levels had no relationship with the number of events experienced. So
while savings do not have a role in helping families avoid financial stress events,
they do play a role in adapting to events. On average, those with higher relative
savings stocks used savings more often as response strategies to financial events and
relied on consumption cuts and loans less frequently. Even with the greater reliance on
savings, they were able to maintain their saving advantage over the life of the study,
signalling their ability to renew savings stocks from income flows.

Overall, savings are important responses to events for all households. Thus,
programs that enable more families to save, and all families to save more, should
be incorporated into urban livelihood interventions since savings provide a liquid
source of funds to buffer other assets in times of crisis. Such interventions will involve:
• improving microfinance outreach in urban areas so that the urban poor have
trustworthy, secure places to save;
• motivating more banks and other formal financial institutions to provide savings
products targeted at the urban poor, meeting the clients’ needs in terms of liquidity
of funds, simple procedures and easy access;
• supporting indigenous saving mechanisms, particularly among women, by
providing seed funds and training in financial management and group dynamics;
and
• improving earning opportunities and income levels so the amount families can
save increases.

Vulnerability associated with reliance on loans for basic needs and in the face of
financial crises is apparent in the Lucknow study slums. Overall, 46 percent of
households borrowed money during the study period. However, those who

25
VULNERABILITY TO CRISIS IN LUCKNOW, INDIA
THE ROLE OF ASSETS IN MITIGATING RISK

became poor had a much higher share of families taking loans and those who
remained non-poor had a much lower share. Thus, higher incomes led to more
savings and less debt among the latter while high income variation and falling
incomes led to lower savings and higher reliance on debt for the former, making them
more vulnerable. Median loan burdens support this, with families who became and
stayed poor during the study having the highest median loan balance as a share of
monthly income.

Two common uses of loans across all households were for medical expenses and
daily food consumption (Fact Sheet 6). While credit should not be limited for such uses
since it helps families meet immediate needs, it is clear that relying on credit for these
consumption needs makes repayment very difficult and can increase future
vulnerability. Hence there is a need for a holistic approach to microfinance that enables
families to take consumption loans currently and also assists them to build savings to
meet these needs in the future, reducing dependence on debt in the longer term.

Another common use for loans is to fund participation in religious and social
ceremonies; these uses of debt admittedly have meaning and are important to the
respondent households, and may also assist them in building and maintaining social ties.
However, funding such investments using credit increases the burden of debt by
providing no means through which to repay the loans. This was a particular problem
for families who became poor, among whom it was more common to use loans to meet
social and religious obligations. While loans are used to some extent across all event
types, they are more common when events are of high cost. Thus, they are often used in
response to social events such as weddings and for hospitalizations. Their use for festivals
is different, in that these tend not to represent large costs each time, but are recurring and
thus become large over time.

Few urban poor households in Lucknow access credit from formal institutions. About half
of all loans taken across the study period instead came from friends, neighbors,
relatives or self-help groups (all ‘good sources’). The latter are a surprisingly small
source of credit, indicating that the microfinance revolution has not reached Lucknow.
Reliance on ‘good sources’ of loans shows that the urban poor are integrated into
networks of support which provide low- or no-interest credit in times of need.
The balance of the loans taken by the study households came from shopkeepers
(for daily needs), employers and money-lenders. The latter are not a major source of credit
in Lucknow.

26
HOME AND LAND AS BASES OF SECURITY

Having a secure place to live is a much more pressing issue for the urban as opposed to
rural poor. Access to land and services is limited in Indian cities, including Lucknow.
However, cities vary in terms of the extent of pressure on land, the quality of service
provision and the city authority’s interest in addressing encroachments. Lucknow is a city
characterized by relatively low pressure on land and low interest in carrying out
evictions and displacements among city officials. Hence, most of the study slum
residents perceived themselves as somewhat secure. Part of the reason for this is their long
length of residence in the study slums (Fact Sheet 7).

Having a secure home with basic services is important for personal as well as economic
security. Households with legal land had better-quality homes and services and higher
incomes on average. They achieved these outcomes over a long period, as most slums on
legal land were in the old city where families had resided for generations. Only half of
non-tenants actually lived on legal land; nonetheless, those on illegal land showed
evidence of access to basic services (electricity, water, toilets) and the willingness to invest in
their homes to make them semi-pucca and pucca.6 The home-improvement process is
slower on illegal land but it is happening, supporting residents’ perceived feelings of
security.

The high perceived tenure security in Lucknow suggests that expending resources to
legalize tenure may not be an immediate priority issue in addressing urban
vulnerability in this case. Improving basic services, increasing employment opportunities
and incomes, and improving schools and health facilities are more important. However,
this does not mean that tenure can be ignored in the long term. As urbanization
increases in India over the next decades, more pressure will be put on urban land
and services. Preparing for these challenges now is important in cities such as Lucknow
where tenure does not at present appear to be a priority. NGOs in Lucknow can begin
using the planning process now to assure that the poor are given space in new
settlements and market space for their economic activities, as well as advocating for
the rights of the urban poor in light of their contribution to the city economy. Also,
certain subgroups of the urban poor may require immediate tenure-related interventions.
One such group is rag-pickers who, due to illegal land status, the power of traders, and
the unpopularity of their occupation, require formal recognition and assistance in
accessing secure land with services on which to live and work (see Box 2 below for more
information on the vulnerability of rag-pickers).7

6
Pucca homes are secure, good quality homes with walls and roof made of brick or concrete; semi-pucca homes are
on their way to becoming pucca through incremental improvements. Generally some or all walls are brick or concrete
while roofs are of lower quality material.
7
This finding is drawn from the study ‘The Ragpickers: Theorizing Vulnerability’ completed by Shyamoli Singh as part of
the larger study.

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VULNERABILITY TO CRISIS IN LUCKNOW, INDIA
THE ROLE OF ASSETS IN MITIGATING RISK

28
NON-ILLNESS STRESS EVENTS AND RESPONSE STRATEGIES

While non-chronic and chronic illnesses are the most frequent events, the most
burdensome events, characterized by frequency and median cost, are social
ceremonies, house repairs and festivals (Fact Sheet 4). Festivals are interesting in that
they rank third in both frequency and burden and are recurring events. Thus, they likely
place a large burden on households as they struggle to find the means to make these
social investments. This is clear from the response strategies used to meet festival
expenses, where a larger share of households relied on loans (29 percent). Loans were
also often used for social ceremony expenses (36 percent of households used loans); this
is less surprising, because marriage and dowry were part of this category. Both of these
entail large expenditures for which loans and help from others were more common
sources of funds compared to other events.

The death of an earner was a very infrequently-occurring event, but was very
debilitating in terms of its estimated cost. Our study considered monetary costs only,
but it is important also to consider social costs, which are likely to be particularly high
when the survivor is a woman.

Box 2 – Summary of the Lucknow rag-pickers study

Rag-pickers are people who scavenge the colossal amount of waste that is
generated every day in cities. They select waste articles from dumpsters that can be
recycled, touring all day on foot to far-off places to collect waste. Waste is anything
that holds no value to its original owner. This includes kitchen waste, vegetables,
fruits, flowers, leaves from the garden, old medicines, paint, chemicals, light bulbs,
spray cans, fertilizer and pesticide containers, batteries, shoe polish and cloth
soiled with blood and other body fluids from hospitals and clinics. This waste is
often decaying or foul-smelling, and carries risk of disease. One of the research
fellows conducted a separate study of rag-pickers, to examine their occupational
health risks and economic and social vulnerabilities.

Rag-pickers in Lucknow come primarily from three regions: Assam, Bihar and Uttar
Pradesh. The study focused on representing these three regional groups and then
also captured them in homogeneous living environments (i.e. only rag-pickers) and
heterogeneous environments (where rag-pickers live alongside other professional
groups). Thus the study examines the effects of regional identity and slum
environment on the vulnerabilities of rag-pickers, studying six slums in order to
capture region of origin and slum environment variations. A household survey,
focus groups, and in-depth observations of picking behaviors were used to collect
the necessary data.

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VULNERABILITY TO CRISIS IN LUCKNOW, INDIA
THE ROLE OF ASSETS IN MITIGATING RISK

Box 2 – Summary of the Lucknow rag-pickers study

Summary of Findings
Services
• Pickers living in older slums (e.g. pickers from Uttar Pradesh) had better access
to services in comparison to those living in newer slums.
• Rag-pickers living in the heterogeneous communities had better access to
services, implying that rag-pickers are marginalized when they are segregated.

Health
• Rag-pickers are extremely susceptible to diseases due to the type of waste they
collect, their exposure to the elements, and their risky picking and sorting
practices (no shoes, no gloves, children playing amongst the waste during
sorting, no hand washing before cooking).
• When ill, rag-pickers prefer private treatment over government hospitals due to
perceptions of the quality of treatment and negative experiences (rudeness) at
government clinics.
• In focus group discussions, rag-pickers did not associate their work with a high
risk for ill health; they did not perceive their work as risky, except due to injury
and exposure to the weather.

Income
• The Assamese earn significantly less than the other regional groups; this is
partly related to their difficulties with the local language, and their higher
dependence on subcontractors to give them living space and picking areas.
• Households not solely dependent on rag-picking for income are economically
better-off than those involved only in rag-picking. Diversification is important to
improving livelihoods.

Vulnerable Groups
• Women were more exposed to health- and work-related risks.
• The Assamese are worst-off socially and economically due to having fewer ties
in the community, problems with the language, and greater dependence on
subcontractors.
• Rag-pickers in heterogeneous slums may have better access to services, but they
also face insults and rudeness by non-rag-pickers. They are often isolated and
marginalized, and as a result may not benefit from their better access
opportunities.

30
GENDER AND VULNERABILITY

A rather unique aspect of this study was its collection of both household- and individual-level
data, allowing us to examine gender-based intra-household aspects of vulnerability. Like
poverty, vulnerability is not just a household-level concept; different members of the
household experience vulnerability differently. For example, women and girls may be
more vulnerable in some respects than boys and men. Aspects of vulnerability where intra-
household differences may appear include food consumption, investment in children’s
education, investment in health care, exposure to illnesses, and who is burdened by the
responses to events (i.e. particularly consumption cuts or sales of assets). Gender differences in
decision-making involvement may increase women’s vulnerability if they have little say in how
the household allocates its income or responds to negative events.

In the Lucknow study we found little evidence of gender differences in consumption


of basic food items. For most such items, over 90 percent of households reported that all
members ate them (rice, dal, flour, vegetables, milk, fish/meat, fruit); only eggs differed
from this with more men than women consuming them. Gender differences in
consumption were more apparent in non-basic foods consumed outside of the household;
men drank prepared tea and ate meals outside the home much more often than women.
Men also consumed more ‘vice’ items such as tobacco and alcohol than women.

Boys are more vulnerable than girls in terms of the percentage not attending school,
but among those studying, households spend more on male school-going children
than on females (Fact Sheet 3). This is due to differences in the types of schools attended.
More boys attend private English-medium schools while more girls attend government
schools. Thus, boys are more likely to be receiving an education that will prepare them for
future job opportunities, leading to the likely reproduction of women’s existing labor
market disadvantages among their daughters’ generation.

Men and women who work contribute equivalent shares of their earnings to the
household pool, though these shares differ when disaggregated by marital status.
Unmarried girls who earn contribute a lower share of their income than unmarried boys.
Presumably, girls can spend their earnings on personal items, including saving for their
dowry. Married women contribute a slightly higher share of their earnings to the
household pool than married men.

There is evidence of gender-based vulnerability in exposure to illnesses. Women


experienced significantly more illnesses on average than men throughout the study
period (Fact Sheet 5). However, average spending per illness did not vary by gender, so
for each illness event there is no sign of discrimination in spending levels.

Rounds two and three of the research indicated that women were affected by more
household events than men and they were less likely to be involved in decisions
about how to respond to events. However, their lack of decision-making involvement did
not mean they were any more burdened by response strategies than men.

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VULNERABILITY TO CRISIS IN LUCKNOW, INDIA
THE ROLE OF ASSETS IN MITIGATING RISK

Box 3: Female-maintained households in Lucknow

A separate study of female-maintained households in Lucknow examined the


vulnerability of these households across household types - de jure (widowed, divorced/
separated in law), de facto (husband away working, not legally separated) and female-
managed - and religious community - Muslim households in Muslim slum, Hindu
households in Hindu slum and both religious communities in a mixed slum. The study
was undertaken in three slums: two homogeneous by religion (one Muslim and one
Hindu) and one mixed religious area. Twenty households across the three slums,
representing the different types of female-maintained households, were involved in in-
depth interviews. The study found that:
• Slum residents were more supportive in homogeneous religious pockets as there
was more cohesiveness and eagerness to help female-maintained households, but:
• Traditional customs hindered women’s entrance into socio-economic activities in
Muslim slums. The dominance of purdah proved to be the main hindering factor in
entering income-earning activities; this increased these households’ vulnerability by
decreasing their economic independence and ability to build savings.
• All female-maintained households lacked basic services, but the worst-off were
Muslim households where, due to purdah norms, the households used dry latrines
that were often located close to the cooking area and were a breeding ground for
flies and other insects.
• Health status across all households was quite poor as a result of high health risks
due to unhygienic conditions and poor living places. Female-headed households
also often could not treat illnesses properly due to low income levels.
• Low education levels were quite common, with boys in particular being required to
work from an early age. Surprisingly, girls’ education was encouraged in de jure
households but discouraged in de facto households, largely for reasons of
reputation protection.
• Per capita income of female-managed households, where a male was present but
not earning, was the lowest among all female-maintained subtypes. This is largely
due to the larger household size among this group.

Women maintaining households faced different problems at the individual level in


different communities.
• Women members of female-maintained households using basic services
experienced excessive abuse by other residents in the mixed Hindu-Muslim slum.
This was especially true for those in the de jure group, due to the absence of a
male in the household.
• Economic exploitation by middlemen in fetching work and strict religious customs
contributed to the vulnerability of female-maintained households in the Muslim
community.
• Official safety-net systems were not supportive of women-maintained households as
the government failed to recognise all their types, often not having any appropriate
schemes and programs for the different groups.

These results were drawn from a study titled ‘Vulnerability of Female-Maintained Households’ done by Uzma Khan as
part of the larger study.

32
Surprisingly, there is little evidence of differences in women’s and men’s involvement
in key household decisions, particularly between men and women who work (Fact Sheet
10). However, women who work have more say in the household compared to those
who do not. So, improving women’s opportunities for income-earning employment will
not only assist families in meeting their basic needs but also can improve women’s status
in the household.

Overall, there is some evidence of intra-household gender differences in risks and


vulnerabilities but the differences do not all burden women and girls. Gender
differences are most obvious in the labor market where men and women access very
different jobs and women are paid much less even in the same activities as men. These
earning differences make women more at risk of poverty individually and increase the
vulnerability of female-headed households by intensifying their labor mobilization
strategies.

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VULNERABILITY TO CRISIS IN LUCKNOW, INDIA
THE ROLE OF ASSETS IN MITIGATING RISK

34
STUDY RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS

Key assets and strategies to reduce urban vulnerability


The key assets associated with lower vulnerability among the urban poor are labor (who
works, for how many days, and in what activities), savings, education, good health, and
access to basic services. All are important in helping families secure better access to income
and achieve greater livelihood security. Improving access to income through better job
opportunities is of central importance among the urban poor, which is clear from the data on
earnings. However, improved income alone is not enough to guarantee a reduction in
vulnerability. Interventions that influence how households spend their income and who controls
that income are also important; these interventions should stress the importance of investing in
preventative health care and in education, of promoting savings, and reducing spending on
social and festival events and on items such as alcohol and tobacco. Also important are
supply-side improvements in the quality of education and health services; these require more
accountable government, and civic groups ready to hold the state to its promises. Thus,
holistic cross-sectoral, gender-sensitive strategies are required which will improve income-
earning opportunities for both men and women, increase women’s time available for work by
reducing the drudgery of household work, reduce the need for child labor, provide secure
access to land and housing, and improve access to and quality of physical and social services.
The challenge lies in how to design and implement urban development programs of the
required scale and complexity to do more than make small isolated improvements, and
leading instead to sustained improvements in urban livelihoods – all in a context of
increasing urbanization.

Successful urban poverty eradication and sustained improvements in urban livelihood


security depend on all stakeholders working together much more than they have in the
past due to the interconnections between the causes of urban poverty and livelihood
insecurity. Small-scale sectoral interventions run by one NGO funded by one donor are
unlikely to make a sustained impact. Nor will interventions that do not address either the
rights of the urban poor to equal access to labor markets, land, services and full
citizenship, or the unequal power relations shaping the poor’s access to the state,
markets, and other institutions. Thus, creative, collaborative rights-based approaches form
the core of a forward-looking strategy to reduce urban vulnerability.

Rights-based approaches are appropriate to reducing urban vulnerability because they


encompass a holistic understanding of well-being, integrating economic, social and
political rights, and explicitly focus on the structural causes of poverty based in unequal
power relations. Thus, they reflect well the complex dimensions that cause and sustain
urban vulnerability and illustrate the range of areas where development interventions are
needed to make a sustained change in the way urban institutions are formed and
operate. Changes are needed to increase the power, voice and control of the urban poor
within development, state, market and community institutions to ensure that the urban
poor can claim their entitlements to services, land, political representation, decent work
and social protection. All such institutional changes must be framed within a gender-

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VULNERABILITY TO CRISIS IN LUCKNOW, INDIA
THE ROLE OF ASSETS IN MITIGATING RISK

sensitive approach that guarantees urban poor women their rights, as well as being
sensitive to the rights of other marginalized groups within the category of ‘urban poor’
such as recent migrants, minority groups, the homeless and beggars.

Roles in implementing successful rights-based urban poverty reduction programs


There are many actors involved in the development process. All of them have roles, at
times similar and at others different, in successfully achieving increased urban livelihood
security through a rights-based approach.

• The state should create an enabling environment for accessing rights; ensure the
provision of entitlements (to work, clean water, sanitation, land, education, good
health) and broaden the base of entitlements offered. It should create benchmarks to
monitor its pro-poor actions; make benchmarks and monitoring transparent and
available to all; enact reforms to reduce corruption and debilitating bureaucratic
processes; and provide safety nets for those unable to provide for themselves.

• Donors and bilateral and multilateral development organizations should support


action research and creative, collaborative program development and implementation
which address both immediate needs as well as the larger structural constraints
operating to keep the urban poor from full, equal incorporation into civil society and
markets. They should make changing power relations and facilitating empowerment
central to their work, maintain a long-term focus when monitoring impacts and
outcomes, and be more accountable to the poor.

• NGOs should prioritize advocacy for the rights of poor urban dwellers, including the
right to participate in public processes, to access land and basic services, to education,
health care and decent work. They should assist the urban poor to access information;
work to change the power relations keeping the poor from equal participation in the
state, market, community and household; hold the government accountable to its roles
in creating an enabling environment and providing entitlements; be accountable to the
poor, giving them voice in their organizations; and be more willing to work
collaboratively with other NGOs to develop integrated urban poverty reduction
programs.

• Community-based organizations (CBOs) should participate in political processes


(recognizing the challenge of participation in terms of time available and lack of
remuneration); access and provide information to CBO members; and hold
government and NGOs accountable to poor communities.

36
In the end, to make a sustained impact on the factors maintaining and increasing urban
vulnerability, changes must occur in the way development institutions interact. A stronger
collaborative element is required. Changing power relations must also become central to
development interventions to ensure that the urban poor have the voice and status to
claim their rights in the state, market, community, and household. The latter also requires
gender-aware action. Urban poverty reduction strategies will become more successful
through joint efforts which put people in all their diversity at the center of development
thinking and practice instead of economic growth, and which focus on equity,
participation, empowerment, and accountability.

37
REFERENCES

Chambers, R. (1988) ‘Editorial introduction: vulnerability, coping and policy’,


IDS Bulletin 20(2): 1-7

Chambers, R. (1997) Whose Reality Counts? Putting the First Last, London:
Intermediate Technology Publications.

Chambers, R. and G.R. Conway (1992) Sustainable Rural Livelihoods:


Practical Concepts for the 21st Century, Brighton: IDS

Glewwe, P. and G. Hall (1995) Who is Most Vulnerable to Macroeconomic Shocks?


Hypotheses Tests Using Panel Data from Peru, LSMS Working Paper 117,
Washington DC: World Bank

Grootaert, C., R. Kanbur, et al. (1995) The Dynamics of Poverty: Why Some People Escape
from Poverty and Others Don’t, An African Case Study, Washington DC: World Bank

Lund, F. and S. Srinivas (2000) Learning from Experience: A Gendered Approach to Social
Protection for Workers in the Informal Economy, Geneva: ILO

Moser, C.O.N. (1998). ‘The Asset Vulnerability Framework: reassessing urban poverty
reduction strategies’, World Development 26(1): 1-19

Rosenzweig, M.R. and K.I. Wolpin (1993) ‘Credit market constraints, consumption
smoothing, and the accumulation of durable production assets in low-income
countries: investments in bullocks in India’, Journal of Political Economy
101(2): 223-244

Sebstad, J. and M. Cohen (2000) Microfinance, Risk Management, and Poverty,


Washington DC: USAID

Swift, J. (1988) ‘Why are rural people vulnerable to famine?’ IDS Bulletin 20(2): 8-15

Wratten, E. (1995) ‘Conceptualizing urban poverty’ Environment and Urbanization


7(1): 11-36

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APPENDIX

Appendix 1: Study slums and their characteristics

Slum Age Size Social Occupations Land tenure


(no. of groups
households)

Choti Jugoli 80 407 Hindu Daily earners, Disputed in


salaried workers parts, tenants
Vijay Khera 25 340 Mixed Daily earners Government;
legal and
illegal in parts
Indiranagri 33 229 Hindu and Labor, Private, illegal
Muslim self-employed in pockets
service
Pandey Tola 200 550 More Hindus Labor, Private, mainly
self-employed legal
service
Kumharan Tola 150 220 Mixed Artisan, labor Private,
mainly legal
Shivpuri 200 206 Mixed, Artisan Private, mainly
more Muslims legal
Thathar Colony 20 121 Shia Muslims Artisan, Private,
labor disputed.
Land mafia
Sanyog Nagar 29 164 Mixed Government Illegal
service,
self-employed
Hata Sitara Begum 40 175 Mixed Self-employed Private,
service illegal in parts
Jutewali Gali 52 129 Mixed Labor, Private,
self-employed legal,
tenants
Purana Takiya 80 162 Muslim Service, labor 3 types,
2 disputes
Machhali Mohal 100 142 Mixed Self-employed, Legal
vending

39
VULNERABILITY TO CRISIS IN LUCKNOW, INDIA
THE ROLE OF ASSETS IN MITIGATING RISK

40