UN releases assessment of socio-economic status of waste pickers in India

January 26, 2022

NEW DELHI – A baseline analysis of the socio-economic situation of Safai Sathis or waste pickers has been released today by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) India. The analysis is one of the first large-scale assessments conducted in India, covering 9,300 Safai Sathis in 14 cities, and was published by Mr. Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI Aayog.

Speaking about this, Mr. Kant said, “Safai Sathis, or waste pickers are the invisible environmentalists and play an important role in waste recycling in India. The social inclusion of informal workers is crucial for the sustainable management of plastic waste. I hope the findings of this baseline analysis will help address waste picker vulnerabilities. NITI Aayog is happy to support UNDP and core ministries such as the Ministry of
Housing and Urban Affairs and MoSJE in the process of building the resilience of waste pickers in the country”.

The baseline was undertaken as part of the “Utthaan – Rise with Resilience” project under the UNDP Plastic Waste Management Programme. Utthaan is UNDP India’s COVID-19 response enabling Safai Sathis to access government programs and build more resilient communities.

The baseline study had an equal representation of Safai Sathis men and women and found that the work they undertake is highly informal, which limits income and employment mobility: some of the key findings included:

· 6 out of 10 Safai Sathis said they have a bank account.

21 percent of Safai Sathis said they have access to Jan
DhanYojana, with an even lower proportion indicating access and use of
digital payment methods.

With the exception of Aadhar cards and voter cards – the possession of which was reported by over 90% and 60% of Safai Sathis, respectively – all other forms of identification such as birth certificates, income, caste and profession were sorely lacking throughout the country. community.

· 50 percent of Safai Sathi reported owning and using a ration card.

· Health insurance coverage among the Safai Sathis was less than 5%.

· Temporary sheds and rented accommodation are the most common forms of accommodation.

· Over 90 percent of Safai Sathis reported having a continuous supply of clean water, while 80 percent had a supply of electricity.

· Access to and use of sanitation facilities was reported by only 60 percent of Safai Sathis.

· Wood-based cooking fuels have been registered at the same level as cleaner alternatives.

In 2021, UNDP also launched the first ever Social Welfare Facilitation Center in Goa with the support of the Japanese Embassy to improve access to social protection for Safai Sathis. The Center acts as a crucial bridge between government departments that manage social protection schemes and Safai Sathis.