Govt should revisit proposed social security code, says labour panel

The Code was introduced in the Lok Sabha in December, and seeks to subsume 9 existing laws.
A parliamentary panel has observed that the migrants’ crisis that unfolded after the lockdown should make the government take a second look at some of the provisions of its proposed ‘Code on Social Security, 2019’.

The Code was introduced in the Lok Sabha in December, and seeks to subsume 9 existing laws.

The panel is set to ask the government to specifically mention the source of the social security fund it has proposed for workers in the unorganised sector. This will ensure that the flow of funds to the proposed fund is uninterrupted.

The panel will also recommend that such a fund should include in its ambit agricultural labour, and also gig economy workers and domestic workers.

The panel, headed by Biju Janata Dal’s Bhartruhari Mahtab, finalised its draft report on the Code at its meeting on Wednesday, and is likely to submit it on Friday.

It is also likely to recommend a social security number for workers to prevent a repeat of the confusion that marked exodus of workers from bigger cities after the lockdown was imposed.

The Code, once it is passed in Parliament, will subsume 9 laws related to social security of workers, including Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948 and Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952.

Once covered by the social security fund, workers would be entitled to old-age pension, disability cover and health insurance. Over 90 per cent of the workforce in India is in the unorganized sector, and only 9.4 per cent in the organized sector.

In its meetings held in the past one month, the members of the panel had told government officials that the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979, has become redundant. They said it had failed to protect the interests of migrants during the lockdown.

The panel had also discussed recommending that the code should mention the provision of a maximum of eight hours of work per day for labourers, which is in accordance with the ILO convention. Several state governments have proposed changes in this in the last couple of months.

Members of the panel have also sought removal of the criteria on minimum number of employees and wages for availing ESI and EPF benefits. This would allow migrant workers and others in the unorganized sector to be covered by these schemes.

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