The Mundka fire is a symptom of all that is wrong with the informal economy.

The fire at Delhis Mundka highlights the invisibility and lack of identity of informal sector workers . The fact that the antecedents of those who died are still unknown highlights the invisibility of informal sector workers .

The fire at Delhis Mundka, which is the result of a so-far uninhibited number of female workers in informal production units, highlights yet again the city's invisibilities and vulnerabilities.The fact that the antecedents of those who died are still unknown highlights the invisibility and lack of identity of informal sector workers.Reports on buildings caught fire that resulted in deaths, as well as articles on illegal constructions and unplanned urban infrastructure development have become a somewhat repetitive issue.Every time there is a disaster, reports show that these buildings do not have the required fire clearance and no-objection certificates from the concerned authorities surface.

Enquiry commissions and promises of tightening procedures are all part of a larger script, with no significant revisions at the ground level.By now, it is clear that the main culprit of the Mundka tragedy was a serious inconsistency in implementing the construction procedures, since the entire building had only one staircase.Though this tragedy has similarities to previous events, the crash site and the victims this time are worthy of special mention.Of the 27 people who died in the fire, 21 were women workers who worked in a company that manufactured and manufactured CCTVs and WiFi routers.

Many of them are young women and the sole or primary incomers in their families.Here, the dilemma faced by women workers in Bangladesh has similarities to those faced by garment factories, which have troubling similarities with the victims of the Rana Plaza collapse.Thousands of unregistered industrial units exist in cities like Delhi without any information about the number of employees and their working conditions.These employers are acknowledged to violate any laws, including basic labor laws.

Over the years, women's work participation rates have declined dramatically, with Delhi ranked as one of the country's lowest (14.5 percent for ages 15 and above, relative to 28.7 percent all-India in 2019-20).The pandemic has worsened women's challenges in seeking jobs, and such workplaces reveal the conditions under which women workers obtain jobs.Many of the workers in the United States are young in their 20s or 30s, representing the age groups that shape our discussions on women's advancement and empowerment.Because of their migrant status and poor economic status, they are compelled to enter the labour market in low-paid and highly-informal occupations.

Women workers are primarily in the packing industry or are supporters categories that are the least qualified as per the job classifications in such categories.As a result of the fact that workers in packing or as helpers work jobs that do not require much expertise, wages are kept low while the labor pool remains large.Women are compelled to apply for jobs to compensate for the absence of employment or declining income of male household members as a result of the pandemic and the reduction in job opportunities and household income.Several of the workers who died after the pandemic joined the factory, signaling the depth of despair that many poor households are facing.Working conditions are generally not well understood in such units as low and variable wages, long working hours, no allowance for sick leave, including maternity leave, and a lack of other basic services.

It is important to note that many women are the sole or primary earners of their households.In these sweatshops, it is a normal practice to work in enclosed areas in dusty, shady, and stingy conditions without any safety equipment, gloves, or masks.Regular work hours are often missed by workers, who need drinking water and toilet facilities.The high rate of unemployment and the women's destitution from the labor market are indicators of unfavorable working conditions, which many women are unable to maintain for long.

These workplaces are often a source of additional income for the enforcement machinery, with employers and the government being the least concerned about the quality of life of workers.There are also worries about how the new labor laws will increase the vulnerability of informal workers.The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 (OSHWC) would be introduced soon, and it would worsen the situation of informal workers, since many of these small units would be left to themselves to follow appropriate working conditions and would go unaccountable.These sweatshops, which are part of our conception of economic growth, are also a source of stress for female workers.

We may face even more devastating tragedies if we do not have enough accountability from employers and a lack of political will to improve working conditions.The writer is a professor at the Center for Womens Development Studies in New Delhi.