Social Security For Workers

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    In News 

    Recently, a Parliamentary panel recommended social security measures for informal workers in its report on the impact of the pandemic on rising unemployment and job loss.

    Objectives and Need 

    • The pandemic has devastated the labour market, denting the employment scenario and threatening the survival of millions of workers and their families.
    • The reports noted that 90% of workers were in the informal sector citing the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS).
    •  The PLFS quarterly bulletin for April-June 2020 showed the unemployment rate in urban areas for those above 15 years at 20.8%, an increase from 9.1% in January-March 2020.
    • The COVID-19 crisis in India has come from the backdrop of pre-existing high and rising unemployment.
      • Therefore, a comprehensive plan and roadmap are required to address the deteriorating condition of employment much aggravated by the pandemic, and widening disparities in the job market in the organised sector.

    Recommendations /Suggestions

    • The direct transfer of money
      • The direct transfer of money into bank accounts of informal workers and an urban employment guarantee scheme is recommended.
    • In India, the pandemic had made matters worse for women, the young, self-employed, migrants and workers with low and medium skills.
      • Therefore, the government should strive to support a recovery that is robust, broad-based and women-centric and based on social dialogues with all the stakeholders concerned to promote and ensure a seamless transition.
    • Universal healthcare -It should be made a legal obligation of the government and the budgetary allocation for MGNREGA should be increased. 
      • An urban jobs guarantee scheme on the lines of the MGNREGA should be implemented.
    Recent initiatives to ensure Social Security of workers

    Social Security Code, 2020:

    • It was passed by the Indian Parliament in September 2020 along with three other labour codes, namely
      • Code on Wages, 2019
      • Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020
      • Industrial Relations Code, 2020
        • These are based on recommendations of the Second National Commission on Labour (2002) and amalgamates 29 laws governing minimum wages, occupational safety, social security.
    • It amalgamates and rationalises the provisions of eight existing central labour laws and attempts to include informal workers within the ambit of social security administration.
      • Of these, Employees Provident Fund (EPF), Employees State Insurance (ESI), maternity benefit and gratuity are entirely for organised sector workers.
    • Key Features
      • The central government can apply the Code to any establishment (subject to size threshold).
      • The definition of ‘employees’ will include contractual labour, gig workers, platform workers, labour from construction sites and most importantly interstate migrant labour, especially amid the Covid-19 crisis.
      • Both the central and the state govt will set up schemes and a Social Security Fund for unorganized workers.
      • The legal framework implies that the basic onus lies in informal workers registering as beneficiaries.
      • Registration is a prerequisite for universal coverage and to avail of social security, an informal worker must register herself on the specified online portal to be developed by the central government.
      • The code provides for the establishment of a national and various state-level boards for administering schemes for unorganised sector workers.

    Code on Wages, 2019:

    • Amalgamates Payment of Wages Act 1936, Minimum Wages Act 1948, Payment of Bonus Act 1965 and Equal Remuneration Act 1976.
    • Key Features
      • The Code will apply to all central sector employees.
      • The central government will make wage-related decisions for employment such as railways, mines, and oil fields, among others. State governments will make decisions for all other employees. 
      • Wages include salary, allowance, or any other component expressed in monetary terms. This does not include bonuses payable to employees or any travelling allowance.
      • The central government will fix a floor wage, considering the living standards of workers. The central government may obtain the advice of the Central Advisory Board and may consult with state governments.
      • The Code prohibits gender discrimination in matters in wages and recruitment of employees for the same work. The minimum wages decided by the central or state governments must be higher than the floor wage. 
      • The central and state governments will constitute advisory boards and one-third of the total members on both the Boards will be women.

    Industrial Relations Code, 2020:

    • Replaces Trade Unions Act, 1926, Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 and the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.

    Key Features

    • It aims to create greater labour market flexibility and discipline in labour and the Centre or State governments can exempt any new establishments from provisions of the code.
    • All industrial establishments with 300 workers or more must prepare standing orders on
      • Classification of workers.
      • Manner of informing workers about work hours, holidays, paydays, and wage rates.
      • Termination of employment.
      • Grievance redressal mechanisms for workers.
    • The code makes it easier for companies to hire or fire workers.
    • The code provides for a Reskilling Fund for the training of retrenched employees.
    • Every industrial establishment employing 20 or more employees will have one or more Grievance Redressal committees for dispute resolution from the employees’ side.
    • It gives recognition to Fixed Term Employment for the first time. Under this such employees will get all the benefits similar to regular employees for a fixed period.
      • Fixed-term employment is a contract in which a company or an enterprise hires an employee for a specific period of time. There are no middlemen or contractors in between.

    Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020:

    • Amalgamates 13 labour laws regarding standards for working conditions, health and safety of workers.
    • Key Features
      • It will apply to factories where manufacturing activity is carried out and employs more than 20 workers.
      • The code will apply to hazardous factories too irrespective of the number of workers employed.
      • No worker will be allowed to work for more than 8 hours a day or 6 days a week. For overtime, an employee would be paid twice the rate of his or her wage.
      • It ensures gender neutrality by allowing women to work in all establishments for all types of work, with consent to work before 6 am or after 7 pm.
      • It recognises the rights of contractual workers and for the first time, transgender rights are recognized.

    Source: TH