Socio-economic class (SEC) E households form the largest segment, a quarter, of urban Indian households and represent the segment with the lowest levels of income in urban India. The smallest sub-segment in this group is made up of households whose chief wage earners are unskilled workers with little or no formal education, are in their younger years, and could be single or married without children.
While a little over half the adults in such households are educated up to middle school, the rest have not even completed primary education.
With hardly any education, lack of experience and training, most of these young wage earners are employed on a casual basis by small units mainly operating in the unorganized sector.
They find work across many sectors, the four leading sectors being manufacturing, construction and real estate, hotels and restaurants, and transport and communication. Smaller cities like Dibrugarh, Lucknow, Bikaner and Amravati have a much larger share of young SEC E chief wage earners being self-employed compared with larger cities such as Surat, Thane, Mumbai and Ludhiana, where regular salaried jobs are the norm.
The household size is typically small, mostly comprising just one member, as these are households of migrants to the cities, whose families are either in smaller towns or villages. Though most chief wage earners are married, their spouses are generally not living with them.
The education level of the spouse is also very low, most have barely finished basic primary schooling. While the chief wage earner has no children, around a fifth of the households do have minors—siblings or relatives who have come to the cities for education or in some cases jobs. A few households have one or two senior citizens.
Almost all of these households earn less than Rs.3 lakh a year, given the low education, skill and experience of the chief wage earner, and the fact that most households have just one earning member. This household profile will also determine the expenditure pattern, as most of the households would be sending money to their families back home, or trying to save to bring their families to the cities.
Fewer than a quarter of the households own the houses they live in. About half the households live on rent, while another quarter live in accommodation provided by employers. House ownership in the segment is higher in smaller cities and towns, while Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore rank among the top in rented accommodation. Penetration of vehicles in this segment is also very low. Fewer than half the households own two-wheelers, showing that the segment largely depends on public transport for commuting.
Television penetration is not as high as in other segments, but is pervasive across regions with more than half the households owning television sets. The refrigerator, another basic necessity in urban households, also has lower penetration—perhaps because most of these are single-member households. Interestingly, despite low education levels, an average SEC E household spends 20 minutes a day reading newspaper. Television, however, has the maximum reach among all media.
Despite low incomes, SEC E younger years segment makes for a huge market due to the sheer number of households falling in this category and the potential for changing consumption patterns as this group at the first rung of family and career is not lagging behind in aspirations to a better life.