According to economic models of underdevelopment, human capital presents a dualism in the economy: those who are educated receive wages many times higher than their unskilled counterparts. However, empirical research in rural India indicates a contrary hypothesis: that a ¨high education trap¨ does not reward higher education with higher wages after a certain point, and that this failure in the labor market penalizes women especially. Meanwhile, research of tourism labor in developing countries implies greater benefits for women than for men in tourism employment. This proposed study would gather qualitative, empirical data about community-based tourism employment in rural India and its capacity to address the labor market failures that are endemic to the economics of developing countries in general, and the ‘high education trap’ that is particular to rural India. The ‘sustainable livelihoods framework’ would be used as a theoretical framework for the research.
General evaluations of the economic impacts of tourism tend to place employment in both the positive and the negative columns. On one hand, expansion of the tourism sector in an economy has the effect of creating employment where there was none previously, and this is generally considered to be a good thing (Dwyer and Forsyth, 1993). On the other hand, the kind of employment that tourism offers is heavily contextual to the particular economy, but is often criticized as being low-skilled, seasonal labor that may not be any more desirable than livelihoods in the traditional or manufacturing sectors.
The kind of employment that tourism generates is a topic that has received little attention in research literature. Because labor markets are very contextual and specific to each economy, the literature tends to focus on tourism labor in particular countries or local areas rather than addressing the question of tourism labor in general. The difference between labor research is especially apparent in studies of developed and middle-income countries versus research in lesser developed countries. This could be due, in part, by certain characteristics of the developing countries´ economics that distinguish it from a more advanced, formalized job market.
One characteristic of labor markets in developing countries is that the inequity of wages is much more drastic in developing countries. ¨Workers with a university education on the average earned 6.4 times as much as the typical worker who had completed primary school, while the corresponding figure for developed countries was 2.4¨(Psacharopoulos, 1973). According to the theoretical model of labor markets in developing countries by Ljunqvist, the explanation for this differential is a market failure in credit to finance education. This model identifies further characteristics of the labor markets of developing countries. ¨An underdeveloped country is characterized by ratio of unskilled workers in the labor force, a small stock of physical capital, a low gross national product, a high rate of return on human capital and a corresponding wage differential between skilled and unskilled workers.¨ (Ljungqvist, 1993).
However, this is a hypothetical model that serves only as a benchmark or as a starting point for empirical investigations. The hypothetical relationship between level of education and level of wages does not seem to hold in the empirical research. According to a study of child education in rural India, the level of education of a child’s parents only affects the child’s likelihood of education as opposed to labor to a certain point. After a certain level of parents´ education, the child actually becomes less likely to pursue education rather than labor (Chaudhuri, 2009). This is contrary to the expected results of the data and to the Ljunqvist model.
The author posits an interesting explanation of this U-shaped relationship between level of parental education and likelihood of child labor. Chaudhuri observes, ¨The educational system and rural labor markets do not support higher education and skilled labor as a means of improving household affluence and reducing child work. This hints at a larger rural developmental task, involving modernizing the education system and labor market so that the labor market opportunities can support highly-educated, skilled workers, and hence reduce child labor incidence¨ (p. 33).
Another result of the same study shows that the rural labor market for skilled women is especially difficult. ‘’A sharper upward slope in the curve for mother’s education hints at another feature of the Indian rural labor market whereby gender discrimination in the market for skilled labor means that highly educated women pay an additional penalty, resulting in more poverty’’ (p. 30).
This poses a huge challenge for the development of rural areas in India. Higher education must be accompanied by opportunities in the market to use education and skills. The traditional agriculture sector is not providing enough skilled labor opportunities for the area’s workforce, especially the women. There is a need for research about whether or not the tourism sector can provide employment in rural areas that contributes to a larger development of the area.
3. Literature review
Tourism employment is an under-researched area of tourism literature. The few studies that have been conducted are specific to small geographical regions or countries, and are too dated to reflect recent movements, such as community-based tourism and pro-poor tourism, that aim to harness tourism as a means of community development in poor areas. Updated research is lacking.
A 1984 study of tourism employment in the Gambia is one of the earliest papers to appear in the literature. At this time, the burgeoning industry was controlled by “mass charter tourism” with foreign tour operators who brought business to the Gambia on their own terms and linked very few of the economic benefits, such as jobs, to the local community. Because of the prevalence of these leakages, the author concludes that “the tourist industry has not employed a significant number of Gambians in more than menial jobs, nor has it provided wages high enough to permit savings which would lead to a reduction in poverty and an improvement in the quality of life of the majority of its workers” (Farver, 1984).
Studies on the quality of tourism from the mid-1990s confirm that tourism is considered a “low wage industry” in mid-income and developed economies. In South Korea, tourism was found more likely to improve living standards for the lower income class, and was again found to be more advantageous for women (Lee and Sang, 1998). In an advanced economy such as Hawaii, tourism employment was found to offer wages that varied substantially, are difficult to measure because of a strong tipping culture, and in generally reflect a “high degree of job satisfaction” (Choy, 1995).
However, a 1993 study on tourism employment in Bali emphasizes that assumptions about the low-status nature of tourism labor held by westerners in the developed world may not hold true for the developing world in the east, such as Bali. The study concludes that “it is not easy to assess the quality of employment created by tourism. Many hotel jobs, for example, appear to be menial but are often better paid than the traditional alternatives”. On the other hand, tourism can trigger labor migration and urbanization, with its complex set of both positive and negative impacts. Importantly, the study notes that “work may grow disproportionally for women” because of the nature of hospitality and handicraft work, especially in traditional societies (Cukier-Snow, 1993.)
Then, in 1995-2000, research investigated the impacts of tourism on “livelihoods” in Namibia, taking a more holisitic approach than purely economic labor research. By this time, a form of tourism referred to as “community-based” had emerged in the area, in which the local community was given more control as stakeholders and decision-makers. The author concludes that “wages paid to local staff by private operations will continue to account for the bulk of local incomes from tourism. However, income that is earned and controlled by the community is probably more significant at boosting local development and conservation because it can be distributed more widely, linked more visibly to wildlife conservation, and involves development of local skills” (Ashley, 1995).
A “sustainable livelihoods” framework is then used to evaluate tourism labor, which acknowledges complexities that economic models such as the Ljungqvist models fail to capture, such as the fact that household members tend to “undertake a range of activities” rather than a traditional traditional/modern dichotomy of labor. In addition to income, other outcomes are gauged, such as pride and empowerment, decreased vulnerability, food security, and physical security. This aims to “address a full range of costs and benefits” (Ashley, 2000).
The only research that addresses human capital in the tourism industry in India was done in 1997. This research recognized the need for greater professional training of Indian people to meet the skilled labor demands of the booming tourism sector. The study assesses the current situation of education and training for tourism in India and identifies certain characteristics of Indian society that make the notion of “professionalism” hard to transfer. The study concludes that more professional training is necessary if tourism wants to achieve international competitiveness, standards of quality, and investment from multinationals (Singh, 1997).
An examination of the literature shows the need for more recent and updated research about tourism and human capital in developing countries such as India. Economic research indicates a “high education trap” that especially affects women in rural areas. Meanwhile, tourism and human capital research indicates that tourism-generated employment may benefit women more than men. The purpose of this study, therefore, would be to investigate the recent trend of “community-based tourism” and its ability to address some of the labor market failures of rural India.
4. Methodology and Data
Following the research of Ashley, 2000, the question of tourism employment in rural India can be examined using the ‘sustainable livelihoods’ framework. The Sustainable Livelihoods framework was adapted from a model developed by the UK’s Department for International Development, and adjusted for use in Canada. It is a holistic, asset-based framework for understanding poverty and the work of poverty reduction. It is an attractive model because it provides a simple but well-developed way of thinking about a complex issue. (Department for International Development, 2010).
The ‘sustainable livelihood framework’ offers an updated theoretical framework for examining the complexity of human capital and underdevelopment. Rather than simply focusing on economic variables such as wage, employment rate, macroeconomic growth, etc, the ‘sustainable livelihood framework’ takes a more holistic approach to evaluating impact of development projects on the ‘livelihoods’ of the local population. The framework considers ‘livelihood outcomes’ variables that include a confluence of factors such as cash income, decreased vulnerability, food security, cultural benefits, pride and empowerment, and physical security “A livelihood approach helps broaden the scope of analysis to a wide range of livelihood impacts. In doing so it seeks to reflect better the more complex reality of poor people’s concerns and aspirations” (Ashley, 2000).
The methodology for applying the ‘sustainable livelihood framework’ to community-based tourism projects in rural India would involve an adaptation of the framework to fit the conditions of the area. The ‘livelihood outcomes’ variables may be different from the ones used in previous analyses.
The first stage of research would involve identifying rural areas of India that are experiencing a boom in inbound tourism. One example is Kerala. Kerala is on the southwest coast of the Indian Peninsula. The average annual growth rate for foreign tourist arrivals is over 20% and over 5% for domestic tourists (Venu, 2008).
The second stage would involve identifying a specific community-based tourism initiative to examine in a community that is receptive to research activity. Then, once the population has been selected, the appropriate ‘livelihood outcomes’ variables can be chosen. For example, in examining the ‘high education gap’ hypothesis about rural Indian women, variables that involve education levels and gender equality in tourism employment can be included.
The third stage would involve gathering qualitative data from the community about all of the selected ‘livelihood outcomes’ variables. This is the methodology used by Ashley, 2000. “[the research] draws on what local residents have themselves chosen to do in tourism, chosen not to do, the reasons they have given for their decisions, what they have welcomed and objected to, and their own reflections on the impacts brought about. This means the results are more subjective, but the benefit is that it enables outsiders to identify the livelihood impacts that seem to be of most importance to local people themselves” (p. 11).
Once the data has been collected in the field, conclusions can be drawn about the impact of community-based tourism initiatives. For each ‘livelihood outcomes’ variable, both the negative and positive effects of the tourism activity can be considered. This offers a more holistic approach to addressing the complexity of human capital in underdeveloped areas. To find out if Indian women are in fact penalized for higher education in the rural job market, and if certain new trends such as community-based tourism can address these market complexities, the best approach is empirical research that directly assesses the situation and ‘livelihood outcomes’ for specific populations.
Ashley, Caroline (1995). “Tourism, communities, and the potential impacts on local incomes and conservation.” Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Namibia. Research discussion paper number 10.
Ashley, Caroline (2000). “The Impacts of Tourism on Rural LIvlihoods: Namibia’s Experience.” The Overseas Development Institute, working paper 128.
Chaudhuri, Sanjiukta (2009). “The school-going child worker: an analysis of poverty, asset inequality and child education in rural India.” Munich Personal RePEc Archive. Paper No. 19687, posted 01. January 2010.
Choy, Dexter (1995). “The quality of tourism employment.” Tourism Management; 16;2, 129-137.
Cukier-Snow and Geoffrey Wall (1993). “Tourism employment: Perspectives from Bali.” Tourism Management; 14:3, 195-201.
Department for International Development (1999). The Sustainable Livelihoods framework. http://tamarackcommunity.ca/downloads/vc/Sustainable_Livelihoods.pdf. Accessed April 1, 2010.
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Lee, C-K, and S. Kang (1998). “Measuring earnings inequality and median earnings in the tourism industry.”
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Venu, V. (2008). “The Kerala Responsible Tourism Initiative.” The second international responsible tourism conference Kerala.