Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Jatavs, and all other Chamars in India, are traditionally leather workers, tanners, and shoemakers. Nevertheless, in villages they are primarily agricultural laborers hereditarily attached to landowners ( jajmans ) for whom they work, often upon demand. Payment was traditionally in shares of grain, food, and items of clothing. In recent years increased payment in cash has weakened the obligations of landowners toward them and progressively reduced them to wage laborers. Population increase, the use of mechanical devices such as tractors, and land reform measures have caused further unemployment and destitution. Many migrate to cities where Jatavs are skilled shoemakers. A number of the educated younger generation have found jobs in government service where a certain percentage of jobs are reserved for Scheduled Castes. Differences based on class and education have begun to appear among, but not yet to divide, them. Those who can afford it may keep a cow or water buffalo for milk.
Industrial Arts. In addition to being skilled leather workers and shoemakers, Jatavs are also skilled masons and building contractors.
Trade. Shoes are manufactured, often on a putting-out system in which individual workers are given raw materials to make shoes in their homes, sold to wholesalers in a market. A few Jatavs in cities own large factories. Shoes are supplied to the domestic and a growing foreign market. However, since they do not control the wholesale and distributive networks, Jatavs do not reap the major profits of their craft.
Division of Labor. Division of labor by sex is strict. Males alone make shoes, plow and do heavy work in the fields, and freely move outside of the hamlet or neighborhood to shop in a market or attend caste councils and other public functions. Married women wear a veil ( ghunghat ) before their husband's elder male kinsmen and in his village or neighborhood; the women draw water, cook, and care for the home. They may also work at harvest time in the fields and separate scraps of leather.
Land Tenure. On the whole, Jatavs, like most Chamars, were until recently unable to own land in villages. In some villages a house tax is paid to the landowner. In cities, however, many have been able to purchase land for homes and factories.