Assam Wage Campaign: Income Breakdown

Day 13 in New Delhi

Continuing on with my work for Nazdeek creating visuals for their current campaign to assist tea plantation workers in Assam, India, push for an increased minimum wage, I was tasked with creating an infographic that shows what portion of tea workers wages are deducted–unlawfully–from their net income versus what they are entitled to according to minimum wage and labor rights law in India.

The core concept of the infographic was simple: highlighting that while 94 rupees per day was already an unbelievably low wage after deductions and taking into account modern costs of living, tea workers incomes were actually unlivable.

Sketch 1


One of the initial ideas for the graphic was to show total daily income, with deductions pulled from one side, and cost of living from the other. The remaining space would be what workers are left with, and if the too overlapped it would show that workers actually have to buy less food than is medically needed to sustain healthy living–which is what inevitably is happens–or begin taking on debt.

Sketch 4

The problem was, using cost of living standards put forth by the Indian Labour Conference in 1957 and the Indian Supreme Court the base cost of living was calculated to be 330 rupees per day, over three times what tea workers earn. The differential was so big that we agreed it would be distracting from the core focus of this infographic, which was unjust deductions from workers net incomes. The final product reveals that over 25% of workers daily income is lost to illegal deductions made by tea plantations. See the full res version here: Income Breakdown


I then created a second graphic, using the guidelines set forth in the Indian Labour Conference, breaking down the 330 rupee minimum daily wage that workers were entitled to. This graphic was meant to justify the 330 number, and explain why this was the bare minimum workers could feasibly earn to reach the most basic standard of living. The style mimics the Income Breakdown graphic, as these two are meant to be used together to get our message across. Check out the full res version here: Proposed Min Wage 2


Assam Wage Campaign: Income Comparison

Day 11 in New Delhi

Nazdeek is currently involved with an ongoing campaign to increase the minimum wage on tea plantations in Assam, India. Due to colonial-era wage policies, tea corporations have been able to pay workers only 94 rupees per day, roughly $1.57 USD. Nazdeek has done significant work and research in this area and they hoped to develop an infographic to raise awareness about this ongoing injustice.

I started by catching up on the research Nazdeek had already produced and found an interesting comparison of wages in Assam tea gardens compared to wages in Kerala–another major tea producer in India. Workers in Kerala earn roughly 3 times workers in Assam. This drastic differential in income gave me the idea to produce an infographic that would place daily wages side-by-side to show audiences how much less Assamese tea garden workers were receiving, while simultaneously highlighting the fact that tea garden workers in Assam earn less than state minimum wage. Here are some initial concept sketches:


I then it would be very powerful to visualize the difference in income with actual stacks of money (or at least icons of the rupees), imitating the visual language of the viral motion graphic Wealth Inequality in America.

Weath Inequality in America

My concept then developed into this simple bar graph, built up with stacks of rupees, to display the difference in income. Also, since this graphic was to be disseminated to an international audience, I wanted to ground the comparison to something familiar to the average western consumer. I thought placing the cost of a package of Twinings tea, sourced from the gardens in Assam, might shock viewers into understanding the gravity of this income disparity.  


My next step was to design the rupee icon that would build the majority of this graphic. I needed something that was recognizable, but simple enough to not distract from the graphic itself–since there would be dozens of these icons stacked in each column anything too complicated would cause eye strain. Color was the most important aspect to make the rupees simple but immediately recognizable. 


With the rupees designed, the first draft of the graphic came together nicely, but the colors were too bright (it was looking a little like monopoly money). I also wanted to include a little more information about the issue, and the folks at Nazdeek wanted to more overtly highlight the fact that tea workers in Assam were earning less than the minimum wage.

Income Comparison Graph draft

I was able to tone down the colors, and make the rupees look a little more distinct, by adding a hue of the orange-brown clay color that cover everything in India, and stains most notes. I added the minimum wage call-outs as Nazdeek requested, and included a blurb about the social issue context. I also added a legend to help with legibility and identify the exchange rate used to produce the graph.


Income Comparison Graph FinalOverall, I am very pleased with how the final draft came out. (View the full resolution graphic here: Income Comparison) We are hoping to reach out to news media outlets later this week with a series of other graphics and a write-up to try to get this information published and begin a discussion about increasing wage for workers in Assam.