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Changing lives and livelihoods in Tamil Nadu

Shrinking debt and growing incomes are the new reality for 580 Dalit and Tribal workers from the hills and slums around Madurai, according to survey data collected in the field. These workers are all members of six new workers’ cooperatives established by our project partner, the Tamil Nadu Labour Union. The benefits of working collectively has made a significant impact on the lives of these people, once shunned by society. Before joining the cooperative, the majority were earning less than Rs150 ($NZ3) a day. Now 275 members are bringing home more than Rs200 ($NZ4), with another 122 earning over $NZ5 daily. This is reflected in a similar positive shift as households start saving and gradually move out of debt and the clutches of the money lenders. While the surveys were undertaken before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, working together in a cooperative and building savings has put these workers in a better position to weather the economic impacts of lockdown in India.

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