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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Social Security Bill 2008 and Migrant workers

Umi Daniel
After almost a decade, Unorganised Workers Social Security Bill seeking to provide social security to workers in the vast unorganized sector was finally passed by Parliament. The Bill seeks to make a beginning in providing social security to some sections of the vast 94% of the total 45.9 crore working population of the country who have remained outside the purview of the facilities.

The scheme relates to provide life and disability cover, health and maternity benefits; old age protection; and any other benefits as may be determined by the Central Government. it provides setting up of a National Social Security Advisory Board which has been re-named as National Social Security Board with the Union labour minister as its chairperson.

The bill has a provision for registering all the 400 million unorganized workers engaged in various informal sectors and will be provided with a unique national identification number. As per the provision, along with the worker(except BPL families) the employer, Union government and respective state government will contribute 1 rupee a day to be used for the social security benefit for the workers. This means, every day around 1600 million rupees will be collected and will be deposited with some designated banks or insurance agency. Annually the scheme aspires to collect 584,000 million rupees which may be used for the social security coverage of 400 odd million workers.

In relation to the coverage of migrant workers; administering the Act will be a massive and complex task for the government to first register and keep track of each of the migrant workers who will be earning their wages from different location and different employees. By now, it is evident that, the building and construction workers Act is struggling hard to register the migrant workers to avail the existing social security benefit under its purview, the proposed Un-organized workers bill will face daunting task to bring the migrant workers under its coverage and provide meaningful social security benefits.

Already there are concerns and worry has been expressed by large number of labour unions working with agriculture workers, forest workers, domestic and other marginalized workers about its coverage and benefit. Similarly, the large chunk of migrant workers who are into undefined sectors and field may face difficulty in accessing the benefit of the scheme.

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