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IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 20th May
EDITORIAL HUNT #324 :“New Social Security Code”
Santosh Mehrotra is the editor of ‘Reviving Jobs: An Agenda for Growth’ (2020) & U.K. Kingshuk Sarkar is an independent researcher
A collage of laws that leaves the worker out in the cold
The universalisation of social security remains an unfulfilled aspiration in the new code on social security
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3 : Labor Code : Social Security
As COVID-19 destroys lives and livelihoods, a systemic failure has rendered low-paid, informal workers. Discuss the critical gaps in Social Security Code 2020. Substantiate -(GS 3)
- Background SS 2020
- Gaps in the code
- Informal workers
- Way Forward
- BACKGROUND : India’s Parliament in September 2020 passed a Social Security Code .
- INFORMAL WORKSPACE : As COVID-19 destroys lives and livelihoods, a systemic failure has rendered low-paid, informal workers, who constitute 91% of the workforce, totally hapless, pushing them further into poverty.
- SOCIAL SECURITY : Imagine if these same informal workers had social security (including free basic curative care in public clinics and hospitals, the elderly had old age pensions, the dying had death/disability insurance or life insurance).
GAPS IN THE CODE
- BASIC HEALTH CARE : We shall set aside the issue of free basic curative health care, since the SS Code does not have that in its scope.
- BUDGET DEFICIT : The health Budget for FY 2021-22 is higher than the pathetic just over 1% of GDP that it has been for decades (making all past central/State governments complicit).
- MINIMAL EXPENDITURE : If we leave out the allocation for the COVID-19 vaccine (still mostly unused), then the FY22 health Budget is actually lower.
- MERGERS : The SS Code 2020 merges existing social security laws and attempts to include informal workers within the ambit of social security administration.
- UNFULFILLED ASPIRATIONS : However, an examination of the code reveals that universalisation of social security remains an unfulfilled aspiration.
- OVERLAPPING : Of these acts, employees provident fund, employees state insurance (ESI), maternity benefit, gratuity are entirely for organised sector workers. However, there are areas of ambiguity and overlapping too.
HURDLES FOR INFORMAL WORKERS
- COVERAGE : The code proposes that both the central and State governments will formulate schemes for unorganised workers.
- REGISTRATION PROCESS : The legal framework as proposed in the Code and Rules, implies that the basic onus lies on informal workers registering as beneficiaries. Registration is a prerequisite for universal coverage.
- OUT OF AMBIT : Existing social security schemes run by State governments under the Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008.Still, a large number of informal workers are outside the ambit of any social security even after 13 years.
- UNAMBIGUITY : The absence of definite and unambiguous provisions in the present code would further complicate achievement of universal registration.
- AWARENESS : Also, experience shows that there is an awful lack of awareness among informal workers regarding social security schemes.
- DIGITAL LITERACY : Online registration places a further challenge as most informal workers lack digital literacy and connectivity.
- DOCUMENTATION PROCESS : Informal workers also find it difficult to furnish all documentary papers required as part of the registration process.
- INCOME DETAILS : Furnishing proof of livelihood and income details in the absence of tangible employer-employee relations is very difficult.They move from one place to another in search of livelihoods.
INTER-STATE COOPERATION MUST
- FEDERAL STRUCTURE : As unorganised workers are spread across the length and breadth of India, inter-State arrangement and cooperation becomes imperative.
- INSTITUTIONAL OVERLAP : Providing holistic social security cover for the unorganised workforce in a simple and effective manner is something lost in the Centre-State labyrinth and jurisdictional or institutional overlap.
- MINUSCULE REGULAR WORKERS : This identity should be primal and all unorganised workers should have basic social security coverage, irrespective of labour market classifications.The code fails to undertake such inclusion in a meaningful way.
- MATERNITY BENEFIT : Under the SS Code, the provision of maternity benefit has not been made universal. Maternity benefit is presently applicable for establishments employing 10 workers or more.
- EMPLOYEES PROVIDENT FUND : The SS Code maintains that the Employees’ Provident Fund Scheme will remain applicable, as before, to every establishment in which 20 or more employees are employed.
- PAYMENT OF GRATUITY : Gratuity shall be payable to eligible employees by every shop or establishment in which 10 or more employees are employed, or were employed, on any day of the preceding 12 months.
- The provision of social security could be used to formalise the workforce to a certain extent.
- Employers could have been made to own up to the responsibility of providing social security to their workers.
- Financial constraints are there for the state too; but all the code does is to state that it will design schemes for informal workers as and when it deems fit.
- In the end, this code remains a collage of existing pieces of legislation without that interweaving thread of integration.
SOURCES: THE HINDU EDITORIAL HUNT | New Social Security Code