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Relevance Of Social Security In Unorganized Worker’s Sectors In India

The ancient Vedic hymn elaborated the concept or social security by wishing everyone to be prosperous, happy, healthy, bright future and without any grief, which is based on human dignity and social justice. International Labour Organization (ILO) defined the social security as:
That security that society furnishes, through appropriate organization, against certain risks to which its members are exposed; thus, ‘social security’ is a protection extended by the society to its members, through adequate & appropriate institutions, against certain risks including ignorance, want, disease, squalor and un-employment. Generally, the above protection is provided through three major ways viz., compensation, restoration and prevention.

Article 41 of the Constitution of India, states that the State shall, within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in case of un-employment, old age, sickness and disablement in other cases of undeserved want .

Background:
In United Kingdom, the first statutory provision for the payment of old age pensions, financed through taxation, to certain groups of employees was made in 1908, thereafter, many acts have been passed to strengthen the social security. The terms social security was first officially recognized by the United State by way of ‘The Social Security Act 1938, although there had been several social security policies available prior to this act but there was no codification of social security before this act.

Though the concept of Social Security was prevalent in other ways of public charity or religious acts, various relief systems etc. yet due to rapid industrialization after World War II, this concept emerged tremendously and accordingly several legislations have been enacted to protect the social interest of workers across the world.

The concept of social security in India were negligible before the independence, however, there had been several codifications of labour laws containing pieces of social security measures available, such as Workman’s Compensation Act 1923, The Trade Unions Act 1926, Payment of Wages Act 1936 and Industrial Employment (Standing Orders Act 1946 etc.

However, after independence the process of Industrialization started functioning speedily and so as the requirement of effective implementation of social security measures and accordingly various enactments have been passed by the parliament to regulate the labour laws and enhance the scope of social security benefits to needy workmen, as Industrial Dispute Act 1947, Employees State Insurance Act 1948, Minimum Wages Act 1948, Factories Act 1948, Coal Mines Provident Fund & Bonus scheme Act 1948, Employees Provident Fund Act 1952, Maternity Benefits Act 1961, Payment of Bonus Act 1965, Family Pension Scheme 1971, The Payments of Gratuity Act 1972 and Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2013 etc., in addition to Labour Law Compliance Rules & Regulations for Collective Bargaining etc.
Un-organized Workers:

For easy reference for coverage of social security legislations and scope & nature of the work, the workers may be categorized as Organized Workers and Un-organized workers. It is pertinent to point out that maximum numbers of above legislations were useful and beneficial to the workmen working in organized sectors, such as factories, mines & other organizations/institutions having at least 10 workers, which contributes about only 7% of total working population in India and these enactments do not include the unorganized sectors  which are owned by individuals or self-employed workers and engaged in the production or sale of goods or providing service of any kind whatsoever, and where the enterprise employs workers, the number of such workers is less than ten and interestingly comprising of total working population around 93%.

These unorganized workers may be Agriculturist labour, labour working on contract in any of the field (including construction), casual labour, labour working in organization of small scale industries having total working strength below ten, labour working in shops, establishment & tanneries, or self employed workers including any person who is not employed by an employer, but engages himself or herself in any occupation in the unorganized sector subject to a monthly earning of an amount as may be notified by the Central Government or the State Government from time to time or holds cultivable land subject to such ceiling as may be notified by the State Government etc.

The unorganized workers mostly engaged as home based workers, street vendors, mid-day meal workers, head loaders, brick kiln workers, cobblers, rag pickers, domestic workers, washer men, rickshaw pullers, landless labourers, own account workers, agricultural workers, construction workers, beedi workers, handloom workers, leather workers, audio- visual workers and similar other occupations.

Un-organized workers may be a wage worker  who has been employed for remuneration in the unorganized sector, directly by an employer or through any contractor, irrespective of place of work, whether exclusively for one employer or for one or more employers, whether in cash or in kind, whether as a home-based worker, or as a temporary or casual worker, or as a migrant worker, or workers employed by households including domestic workers, with a monthly wage of an amount as may be notified by the Central Government and State Government, as the case may be.

The Un-organized Worker’s Social Security Act:
The various studies had been conducted in respect of unorganized workers regarding prolonged working hours, inhuman working conditions and lack of social security benefits through government agencies as well as private agencies/NGOs. The political leadership and labour welfare agencies, after examination of working conditions of the unorganized workers opined that an effective legislative tool is necessary for the social security interest of the workers of un-organized sectors.

In terms of policies of International Labour Organizations and provisions of the Constitution of India to extend the social security benefits to the workers of unorganized sectors the parliament has passed an act to provide for the social security and welfare of unorganized workers and for other matters connected therewith or incidental thereto in the name and title of ‘The Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008’. This is the very important legislation enacted for the welfare of the un-organized workers.

‘The Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008’ empowers the government to formulate, notify and implement the following main social security schemes for unorganized workers on matters relating to:

  1. life and disability cover
  2. health and maternity benefits;
  3. old age protection; and
  4. provident fund
  5. employment injury benefit;
  6. housing;
  7. educational schemes for children;
  8. skill upgradation of workers;
  9. funeral assistance
  10. old age homes and
  11. Any other benefit as may be determined by the Central Government.
The Unorganized Workers Social Security Act also made it mandatory to the Central Government to constitute a National Social Security Board under the chairmanship of Union Minister for Labour and Employment and also authorized the State Government to constitute a State Social Security Board under the chairmanship of Minister of Labour and Employment of the concerned State and these boards are assigned for effective implementation of ‘the unorganized workers social security act. The record keeping functions for the purpose of the act assigned to the District Administration and the State Government may direct that the record keeping function shall be performed by:
  1. the District Panchayat in rural areas; and
  2. the Urban Local Bodies in urban areas.

Eligibility of un-organized workers for Social Security Benefits:
Every un-organized worker who has completed 14 years of age may apply for registration to the District Administration to take the benefits of social security measures of the above act, thereafter, the unorganized worker shall be registered and issued an identity card by the District Administration which shall be a smart card carrying a unique identification number and shall be portable.

If a scheme requires a registered unorganized worker to make a contribution, he or she shall be eligible for social security benefits under the scheme only upon payment of such contribution and where a scheme requires the Central or State Government to make a contribution, the Central or State Government, as the case may be, shall make the contribution regularly in terms of the scheme.

Relevance of Social Security Measures for Un-organized Workers:
It has been recently observed during first national lock down in 2020 due to pandemic Covid 19 that the workers of unorganized sectors were in immense need of various social security schemes in addition to those already mentioned in the act. Un-precedented migration of workers in huge numbers made the government machinery to hardly function smoothly and efficiently. The epidemic Covid almost stopped the effective functioning of whole country and the unorganized workers are the main sufferers.

Though the Central Government released huge packages to relax the situations but due to non-availability of effective, dedicated & distinguished machinery for granting social security benefits to the unorganized workers there might be lakhs of unorganized workers who could not take any relief during this epidemic period.

It is apparently clear that had there been a dedicated mechanism under the act the migrating unorganized workers could had been granted more social security relieves. Therefore, the enhancement of the scope of The Un-organized Workers Social Security Act is much more relevant in present context as in above conditions economic, social, housing & health facility can be extended to unorganized workers more rapidly through effective implementation of the above act.

Secondly, the Un-organized Workers Social Security Act is relevant to reduce the pain and sufferings of the unorganized workers. It may be called as the ill fate of the unorganized workers to work prolonged hours and sometime forced to migrate to another place in search of work. As unorganized workers are neither skilled nor having organizational powers therefore there may be instances when they have to work in hazardous situations and without much social security measures that too when these unorganized workers contribute tremendously in Gross Domestic Product. There are hardly any facility available to the workers of unorganized sectors to grant them social security, such as Medical Health Insurance, Life and disability cover, Maternity benefits, Old aged protection, provident fund, housing, education for children and other miscellaneous expenses required to live with human dignity, therefore, law remains an effective tool to grant above social security benefits to the unorganized workers.

The Unorganized Worker’s Social Security Act can become an efficient instrument to reduce the social problems of the unorganized workers by providing them social security. Some of major social security measures formulated and implemented by the government for un-organized workers are Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme, National Family Benefit Scheme, Janani Suraksha Yojana, Handloom Weavers’ Comprehensive Welfare Scheme, Handicraft Artisans’ Comprehensive Welfare Scheme, Pension to Master craft persons, National Scheme for Welfare of Fishermen and Training and Extension, Janshree Bima Yojana. Aam Admi Bima Yojana and Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana etc. Recently, Government of India has recently introduced a pension scheme for unorganized workers namely Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-dhan (PM-SYM) to ensure old age protection for Unorganized Workers who are not covered under New Pension Scheme (NPS), Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) scheme or Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) and also he/she should not be an income tax payer. Thus, it appears that government is continuously though slowly formulating and implementing new social security measures for the welfare of unorganized workers.

The unorganized work force has been adversely affected by the conditions owing to nationwide lockdown. Due to migration of the unorganized work force the cost of labour increased and available supply of the work force was is not able to cater the demand, therefore, there are instances of hindrance in chain supply management in almost all sphere of economy, thus, there is immediate need to widen the scope of The Unorganized Workers Social Security Act to cover the available needs of the workers in un-organized sectors for the purpose of ensuring their availability for the work for smooth, effective and efficient functioning of all economical & social activities. To boost the economy it is felt necessary to execute the Unorganized Workers Social Security Act. As informal employment has been one of the central features of the labour market of unorganized workers in India.

While the unorganized sector contributes around half of the GDP of the county, its dominance in the employment front is such that more than 90% of the total workforce has been engaged in the informal economy. As per the latest estimation of a Sub-committee of the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector (NCEUS), the contribution of unorganized sector to GDP is about 50%.

The Unorganized Worker’s is very oftenly affected by excessive seasonality of employment especially in the farming sectors, preponderance of casual and contractual employment, a typical production organizations and work relations, absence of social security measures and welfare legislations, negation of social standards and worker rights, denial of minimum wages etc. compound the adverse affect upon performance and social benefits of unorganized work force.

With rapid growth of technology and realm of globalization, creating an environment for optimum utilization of workforce without involving much resource and the most suitable means is the unorganized workers who are cost effective too. The alarming expansion of informal sector, in recent times, has adversely affected employment and income security for the larger majority of the workforce, along with a marked reduction in the scale of social security benefits.

Therefore, enhancement of the scope of social security measures under the Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, need to be of utmost importance especially it is more relevant in present context during after effects of lockdown situation. However, there are several limitations for effective implementation of the Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act.

Limitations & Suggestions:
‘The Unorganized Workers Social Security Act’ meant for social welfare of the unorganized workers, however, it has following limitations which can be overcome through implementation of measures as are suggested:
  1. Registration process is too formal for a less educated worker; hence, registration of Unorganized workers may be done through online or at nationalized banks or post office also in addition to present district administrative authority.
     
  2. The Smart Identity Card of Un-organized worker be recognized across the country and to avoid its misuse and avail benefits of the act, it may be linked with Aadhaar card of the worker.
     
  3. The workers of unorganized sectors, both below poverty line or above poverty line, may be covered under the social security benefits of the unorganized workers social security act, the contribution and other conditions may be formulated as per the economical standard of the worker. As presently, this act enables the Central and State governments to formulate certain schemes for the welfare of the unorganized workers who fall in the below poverty line (BPL) category, thus, the Schedules of the act may be amended accordingly.
     
  4. Since unorganized workers do not have authorized organizations to represent them before appropriate forum regarding health issues, insurance issues, low wages issues, nonpayment issues, delay in payment etc., hence, an appropriate forum which is easily approachable by the workers, may be constituted in addition to present district level administrative authorities, furthermore, to ease the situations a mechanism for redressal of grievances through online portal may be introduced in urban areas and in rural areas the same may be done through panchayat authorities etc
     
  5. Presently there is no penal measures provided in the act to the authority for unorganized workers against any abuse or misuse by anyone during course of his employment, thus, penalty clause may be incorporated in the act for effective functioning of the act.
     
  6. Regular monitoring of working environment of unorganized working sectors may be effected through periodical checks and inspection by district authority especially in case of harassment or torture or working in inhuman conditions is reported by the workers.
     
  7. Presently, the un-organized workers social security act the legal rights of the unorganized workers are not clearly given, instead of this act is based on directive principles, therefore, enforcement through proper court is difficult, hence, clear provisions confirming the rights of the workers may be incorporated in the act to enhance effective implementation of the act.
     
  8. The Un-organized Workers Social Security Act does not make it mandatory for the government to introduce new welfare schemes. It unfairly divides unorganized workers into those below the poverty line and those above, and is silent on a national minimum wage, improving working conditions and the problems of women workers like unequal pay and harassment at workplace, thus, the act needs to be amended to include unorganized workers of both the category i.e., below poverty line and above poverty line; and necessary provisions, penalties, punishment etc may be included against unequal pay and harassment at workplace.

Conclusion:
The social security schemes for un-organized workers are of vital importance, since they affect directly the work force engaged in unorganized sectors comprising of more than 90% of total workforce thereby having direct impact on GDP of country, which is one of the valuable scales to measure the development of the economy. The global working environment has drastically changed after the prolonged lock-down which is more concerning factor for the un-organized workers.

In view of the prevailing labour conditions it has become very much necessary to incorporate the aforesaid suggestions in ‘The Un-Organized Worker’s Social Security Act, 2008’ for effective and efficient implementation of the act.

Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Kapil Kishor Kaushik

Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: JU34317022968-8-0621


Note: The contents of above article are for information only and not for any commercial use or reference or solicitation of work or legal advice/opinion.

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