In 1999, India's active labor force totaled 406 million. In that year, 60% were employed in agriculture, 17% in industry, and 23% in services. The unemployment rate in 2002 stood at 8.8%.
In 2002, there were an estimated 13 to 15 million organized industrial workers, all belonging to the formal economy, which accounted for 30 million workers, or less than 10% of the total labor force. Most trade unions are affiliated with political parties. The right to strike is often exercised, but public sector unions are required to give 14 days notice prior to an organized strike. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against union activity, and collective bargaining is practiced.
Working hours are limited by law to 48 per week for adults with eight hour days. Minimum wages are set according to industry. By law, earned income also includes a cost-of-living allowance and an annual bonus. These regulations are only applicable to factories and all other establishments with 20 or more employees. Factory employment of children under 14 years of age is prohibited, although estimates place the number of child laborers as of 1999 at anywhere between 11 to 55 million. Many of them work in the hand-knotted carpet industry. Bonded labor was abolished in 1976, but is still prevalent. Estimates of the number of bonded laborers range as high as 40 million. Health and safety standards are not regularly enforced.