Social security, a dream for most Indian workforce

Date:   Saturday , May 31, 2008

A candle sacrifices its life by melting down as it gives light to its surroundings, an example often cited as a great symbol of generosity. This metaphor seems to be suitable to a whopping 93 percent of India’s workforce who are toiling in unorganized sectors. Despite contributing a lion’s share to the country’s GDP (62.3 percent), this hapless majority is working hard without the shield of social security.

The observation made by the report, which is in response to the government’s report to the UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in 2006, was prepared by the People’s Collective for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (PCESCR), an umbrella organization of 150 NGOs.

Concluding with the scorching statement, “social security is not a priority for the government,” the report says that only 0.4 percent of the unorganized sector workers receive social security benefits like the Provident Fund.

Referring to the Five Year Plan (2002-2007), which emphasized the need for social security coverage for the unorganized sector, the report said that after the announcement of the Plan approximately 14 bills have been introduced, but social security still remains a dream for these workers. It also chastised most of the government’s social assistance program for being inadequate ? the national floor level minimum wage in India is just Rs.50 per day, the National Old Age Pension Scheme ensures a monthly pension of just Rs.75, and the National Maternity Benefit Scheme gives a sum of Rs.500 to pregnant women of households living below the poverty line.

“The aim of this report is for positive development to take place,” said Sunila Singh, one of the members of PCESCR.

The report also has a list of recommendations for the government. “India should develop a comprehensive legislation for social security for all, including the unorganized sector and ensure non-contributory, non-insurance based universal coverage of basic rights. “Five percent of the GDP should be earmarked for social security to the unorganized sector,” the report said.

In India, the unorganized sector which comprises of agriculture, rural industry, service industry, and the self-employed comprises 370 million workers or 93 percent of the workforce of the country.