New Delhi: A parliamentary panel on labour has recommended universal social protection for unorganised sector workers and also proposed a blueprint for the union government to include gig economy workers, acknowledging rapid changes in the labour market.
In its recommendations on The Code On Social Security, 2019, submitted to the Lok Sabha speaker, the parliamentary committee suggested framework of a model composite scheme to bring greater uniformity among states.
“The Committee are of the considered opinion that clear demarcation of areas for notification of schemes by the central government and the state governments is absolutely required to avoid overlapping and duplication. It is imperative to provide for a framework of a model composite scheme, to bring a greater uniformity among states, which should include issues and concerns of education, health, social security, old age, disability pension," it said.
It also suggested ways to bring uniformity across states on welfare schemes apart from expanding definitions of gig and platform workers to accommodate new emerging forms of labour market activities.
“A Social Security Fund for the unorganised sector workers and others be set up and clearly defined in the Bill stipulating contributions from the employees, employers, central government, state governments. For better focus and efficiency the Social Security Fund for the unorganised sector should be spent on four important categories of social protection, hospitalisation, health insurance, life insurance and old age pension," the committee said in its recommendations.
Taking note of the recent migration of workers in the backdrop of national lockdown to contain spread of coronavirus pandemic, the committee has pointed to the need for a national level database for all unorganised sector workers and the schemes they are registered in to ensure that in case of migration from one state to another, the benefits are extended to them.
“The data base should be technologically linked with the data base for the migrant workers including construction workers and self-employed people like street vendors so that if any such worker changes the location, details of the worker automatically gets updated in the database and portability benefits should be truly achieved," the committee must be added.
The panel stressed on the need to have definitions of certain terms to specify gig workers and platform workers to accommodate new and emerging forms of labour market activities for future work model.
“It is imperative to clearly mention the status of the Gig workers and platform workers in the Code itself so as to effectively extend the social security provision. Since the definition of ‘Gig Workers’, given in terms of all activities outside the traditional employer-employee relationship, appears too broad, the Committee desire that the definition of ‘Gig Workers’ needs to be made more specific and unambiguous," the recommendation said.
The Code on Social Security, 2019 was introduced in Lok Sabha in December last year but several concerns were raised over some of its key provisions which led to the Bill being sent to the Standing Committee. The Code replaces nine laws related to social security and is focused to amend and consolidate the laws relating to social security of the employees’ and related issues.
The Committee in its report has also recommended that steps should be taken to look at the possibilities to make the Employees' Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act applicable to all workers, including self-employed.
The report of the standing committee, which is expected to get tabled in Parliament, also has its share of dissent. According to two members of the committee, at least six dissent notes had been moved on different aspects of the report, including those from key opposition parties like Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (DMK), Congress, and Left Parties among others.
"The committee has looked into several of our suggestions but we are not satisfied with the response of the government. We also feel that the finalisaiton of the report has been rushed into because many members could not participate towards the end due to pandemic restrictions so the dissent notes were moved," a senior member from the committee said requesting anonymity.
(Anuja contributed to the story)