Social security ID for migrants on top of labour panel’s agenda
A portable social security number for migrant workers and other employees in the vast unorganized sector will be the main issue on the agenda of Parliament’s labour committee when it meets on June 5 to review the social security code
The standing committee on labour, in the backdrop of the misery confronted by unorganized sector workers in the past two months in the aftermath of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, will also push the government to provide a larger social security net that can help them tide over the difficult situation.
“We have seen what is happening to the hapless migrant workers and other daily wagers after the pandemic swept across the states. The welfare of the unorganized sector is the biggest issue for us,” said Bhartruhari Mahtab, chairman of the labour standing committee.
The unique social security number, which would be linked to the Aadhaar unique identity number, is expected to automatically identify unorganized sector workers and help the government roll out targeted doles or welfare schemes for them in a more organized way. Aadhaar cannot be used to distinguish unorganized sector workers.
The focus on the unorganized sector, particularly daily wagers, in the social security code comes months after the standing committee on labour asked for sweeping changes in the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2019 (OSH Code) in favour of vulnerable workers.
According to government officials, at least 50 amendments to the OSH code proposed by the House panel will be accepted to benefit migrant workers.
The social security code aims to register every unorganised worker who is at least 16 years of age. The bill also aims to ensure that “every eligible unorganised worker under sub-section shall be registered by such registering authority by assigning a distinguishable number to his application or by linking the application to the Aadhaar number.”
The bill also envisages that “a registered unorganised worker shall be eligible to avail the benefit of a scheme framed under this Chapter on making such contribution, if any, as may be specified in the scheme.”
The panel is set to push the government for a larger social security cover for the unorganized sector that forms 93% of India’s workforce.
“For the organized sector, there is protection available in the form of EPFO or ESI. They can also avail pension plans. But there’s not for unorganized sector. We need to take a different approach for them,” said another member of the panel, requesting anonymity.
EPFO is short for the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation, the government’s retirement savings manager, and ESI stands for Employees’ State Insurance
The Narendra Modi government launched three schemes— old age pensions, disability pensions and life insurance for the unorganized sector -- but they are contributory schemes wherein the beneficiaries have to make small monthly or yearly contributions.
The labour panel may pitch for a larger social scheme without voluntary contributions to be added in the social security code. Welfare schemes, according to two members of the panel, must take into account a situation such as the Covid-19 pandemic when millions of daily wagers can be out of work for months at a stretch.