The Union Labour and Employment Ministry launched a portal aiming to register 38 crore unorganised workers in the country, eventually to help in the implementation of social security schemes.
GS-III: Indian Economy (Growth and Development of Indian Economy), GS-III: Industry and Infrastructure (Industrial Growth, Industrial Revolution)
The nuances of the unorganised workers’ identity are complex. Discuss in the context of implementation of the E-Shram portal throwing light on its issues and challenges. (15 marks)
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is the ‘Unorganised Sector’?
- Categories of Unorganised Labour Force
- SC’s observations on need of registration of unorganised workers in 2021
- About the E-Shram Portal
- Issues with E-Shram portal
- Challenges in the implementation of E-Shram portal
- Way Forwards to improve the condition of unorganised sector workers
What is the ‘Unorganised Sector’?
- Unorganised sector is a sector which is generally not governed by the rules and regulations that are laid down by the Government regarding the condition of employment.
- The term unorganised sector when used in the Indian contexts defined by National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector, in their Report on Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in the Unorganised Sector as “… consisting of all unincorporated private enterprises owned by individuals or households engaged in the sale or production of goods and services operated on a proprietary or partnership basis and with less than ten total workers.”
- The Characteristic features of Unorganised sector are:
- Jobs in the unorganised sector are very low paid.
- No paid leaves, provident fund, holidays and medical benefits are given to the employees.
- Job security is absent as in the case of no work, the employee may be asked to leave at any time.
- It is the employer who decides the rules and regulations of work.
Categories of Unorganised Labour Force
The Ministry of Labour, Government of India, has categorised the unorganised labour force under four groups depending on occupation, nature of employment, specially distressed categories and service categories.
- Under Terms of Occupation: Small and marginal farmers, landless agricultural labourers, share croppers, fishermen, those engaged in animal husbandry, beedi rolling, labelling and packing, building and construction workers, leather workers, weavers, artisans, salt workers, workers in brick kilns and stone quarries, workers in saw mills, oil mills, etc. come under this category.
- Under Terms of Nature of Employment: Attached agricultural labourers, bonded labourers, migrant workers, contract and casual labourers come under this category.
- Under Terms of Specially Distressed Category: Toddy tappers, scavengers, carriers of head loads, drivers of animal driven vehicles, loaders and unloaders come under this category.
- Under Terms of Service Category: Midwives, domestic workers, fishermen and women, barbers, vegetable and fruit vendors, newspaper vendors, etc., belong to this category.
SC’s observations on need of registration of unorganised workers in 2021
- The Supreme Court has asked states and Union territories to keep a record of the returning migrant labourers, including details about their skills, place of their earlier employment, etc so that the administration can extend necessary help to them.
- The SC said that there should be a common national database for all organised workers situated in different states.
- The SC highlighted that the process initiated by the Ministry of Labour and Employment for creating a National Database for Unorganised Workers should be completed with collaboration and coordination of the States. It may serve registration for extending different schemes by the States and Centre.
- The SC also said that there should be a suitable mechanism to monitor and supervise whether the benefits of the welfare schemes reach the beneficiaries which may be from grass-root levels to higher authorities with names and places of beneficiaries.
- In addition, the stranded migrant workers throughout the country should be provided dry ration under the AtmaNirbhar Bharat Scheme or any other scheme found suitable by the Centre and the states.
About the E-Shram Portal
- With the help of the E-Shram Portal, the government aims to register 38 crore unorganized workers, such as construction labourers, migrant workforce, street vendors and domestic workers, among others.
- The workers will be issued an e-Shram card containing a 12-digit unique number, which, going ahead, will help in including them in social security schemes.
- The government had earlier missed deadlines for creating the database, inviting criticism from the Supreme Court.
- Targeted identification of the unorganized workers was a much-needed step and the portal which will be the national database of our nation builders will help take welfare schemes to their doorstep, who are the builders of our Nation.
- Targeted delivery and last mile delivery, has been a major focus of the schemes of government of India and the National Database of Unorganised workers (E-Shram portal) is another key step towards that.
Issues with E-Shram portal
- The portal has come into existence after more than a decade after the passage of the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act in 2008.
- If inter-State migrant workers are considered, the portal is a little more than four decades late.
- It has come about after repeated nudging by the Supreme Court of India.
- Had the Central and the State governments begun the legally mandated processes on time, much of the distress of lakhs of vulnerable workers could have been avoided.
Challenges in the implementation of E-Shram portal
- Given the gigantic nature of registering each worker, it will be a long-drawn process.
- In addition, the novel coronavirus pandemic has pushed lakhs of workers into informality.
- The Government has not mentioned a gestation period to assess its strategy and efficiency.
- One of the vital concerns of e-portals is data security, including its potential abuse especially when it is a mega-sized database. The central government would have to share data with State governments whose data security capacities vary. Media reports point to the absence of a national architecture relating to data security.
- There are issues concerning the eligibility of persons to register as well as the definitional issues. By excluding workers covered by EPF and ESI, lakhs of contract and fixed-term contract workers will be excluded from the tag of UW. Under the Social Security Code (SSC), hazardous establishments employing even a single worker will have to be covered under the ESI, which means these workers also will be excluded. It excludes millions of workers aged over 59, which constitutes age discrimination. Given minimal or no social security for them, their exclusion will hurt their welfare.
- The nuances of the unorganised workers’ identity are so complex. Apprehensions are raised on how mechanical and assumptions-based portal registration will be able to capture the complexities and dynamics involved regarding them.
- Many workers will not have an Aadhaar-seeded mobile or even a smartphone. Aadhaar-seeding is a controversial issue with political overtones, especially in the North-eastern regions.
- Even though the ministry has included gig workers in this process, it is legally unclear whether the gig/platform worker can be classified first as a worker at all (the other three Labour Codes do not include these workers), and second as organised or unorganised workers. The definition of an unorganised worker in the Social Security Code does not specifically include them, unless they are declared ‘self-employed’ or ‘wage workers’.
- However, there is an all-inclusive miscellaneous category that will have to be intelligently used to expand the occupational categories.
- The central government will have to depend on the state governments for this project to be successful. In many states, the social dialogue with the stakeholders especially is rather weak or non-existent.
- There is the concern of corruption as middle-service agencies such as Internet providers might charge exorbitant charges to register and print the E-Shram cards.
Way Forwards to improve the condition of unorganised sector workers
- Credit facilities to be made available to make initial investment and for further expansion for the informal workers.
- The government should evolve a mechanism to listen to the grievances and the grievances should be redressed periodically to the informal labours.
- More importance must be given to the female in the family also to improve the status of female agricultural labours.
- Normally, women agricultural labourers receive lower wage than the men, even in doing identical jobs, although there is constitutional backing in the form of equal wage for equal work. The Government must effectively enforce an act as necessary for its implementation.
- Co-operation of agricultural labourers in the local self-governing institution must be extended in order to provide representations to this section.
- In order to eliminate these socio-economic and cultural barriers, female children and women should be educated through formal and non-formal channels. The voluntary agencies have also got a significant role to play in this regard. rights on space
- Vending to the vendors ultimately increases his/her accountability on space and its surrounding environment. By this means they would maintain health and hygiene.
-Source: The Hindu