Daily Answer Writing
17 September 2021

Q. Examine the challenges faced by the migrant workers in India. How can e-shram portal help in addressing these challenges? (150 Words)

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  • Source: The Hindu - Page 6/Editorial : E-Shram needs some hard work to get going
  • GS 3: Employment

 

Approach Answer:


Introduction: The recent migrant crisis has brought forward the importance of the role played by migrants in the Indian economy. Comprising 20% of the workforce, migrant labour became vital to every economic sector despite facing continuous hardhips, especially the informal sector and MSMEs, constituting nearly 50% of India’s GDP.

 

Continued hardship faced by the migrant workers:

    • Contractual Nature of Jobs: Often the migrants are part of the gig economy with seasonal employment, which suits the seasonal nature of agriculture.
    • No Social Security: No permanent job means no coverage under pension, health insurance etc.
    • Lower salaries: They work for much less than the locals for the same job.
    • Pitiable living conditions: Often without ability to buy our rent a decent accommodation, many are forced to live in slums.
    • High rent: The urban centers are expensive to live in. A few ays of joblessness can crease extreme stress.
    • Lower coverage under welfare schemes: Due to identification of the home states, various schemes such as PDS benefits are difficult to avail unless the address is mutated, which is a difficult process.
    • Discrimination faced by Locals: For example the idea that Mumbai is for 'Marathi Manus'.

 

Features of E-Shram Portal:

    • Aim: It seeks to register an estimated 398-400 million unorganised workers and to issue an E-Shram card. These include construction labourers, migrant workforce, street vendors, and domestic workers, among others.
    • e-Shram card: It assigns a 12 digit unique number to each labour.
    • Benefits: Rs 2.0 Lakh on death or permanent disability and Rs 1.0 lakh on partial disability.
    • Implementation: Government in States/UTs will conduct registration of unorganised workers across the country.
    • An unorganised worker (UW) - Any worker who is a home based-worker, self-employed worker or a wage worker in the unorganised sector - should follow two conditions
      • Age should be between 16-59 years.
      • Not a member of EPFO/ESIC or NPS (Govt. funded)
    • Requirements for Registration: Mobile number linked with Aadhaar and Savings Bank Account number with IFSC code

 

Importance:

    • Long term benefit: As government gathers the information about the migrant workers, they stand to gain during normal and crisis-ridden periods.
    • Formalization: With coverage under some kind of registration and social security, this would be akin to formalization.
    • Social Security to informal sector: The existing social security code(SSC) is exclusionary as ESC and EPF benefits are applicable only to those employed in establishments employing 10 or 20 workers, respectively. e-shram on the other hand covers all informal employees.
    • Data collection: E-Shram is a vital system to provide hitherto invisible workers much-needed visibility. The government did not have data before the COVID crisis.
    • Efficient and leakage-less delivery of benefits: This may help in direct benefit transfer, Ex - One-Nation-One-Ration Card (ONOR), E-Shram Card (especially bank account seeded) and the Election Commission Card. 

 

Challenges:

    • Data security, other issues: The central government would have to share data with State governments whose data security capacities vary. The mega size data is potentially vulnerable in this regard.
    • No incentive for Small employers: why should small employers be incentivised to ask or require their workers to register even though the government reportedly requires them mandatorily to register their workers.
    • Against ease of doing business: Any penal measure on businesses will hurt the ease of doing business.
    • Definitional Issues/Many exclusions: There are several issues concerning the eligibility of persons to register. Lakhs of contract and fixed-term contract(FTC) workers will be excluded from the universe of Unemployment worker.
    • Age-based discrimination: It excludes millions of workers aged over 59 from its ambit, which constitutes age discrimination. Given the frugal or no social security for them, their exclusion will hurt their welfare.
    • Technical Challenges: 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. 
    • Complex identities: The very identity of unorganised workers is ever-changing. Many are circular migrant workers and they quickly, even unpredictably, move from one trade to another. Many others perform formal and informal work as some during non-office hours may belong to the gig economy, for example as an Uber taxi or a Swiggy employee. 
    • Problem related to gig-workers: 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). 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’.
    • Digital exclusion: There is also the concern of corruption as middle-service agencies such as Internet providers might charge exorbitant charges to register and print the E-Shram cards.

 

Conclusion: The success of the Scheme depends on the involvement  of surveillance agencies to monitor the implementation. Further, the Government must publish statistics at the national and the regional levels to ensure accountability. Successful implementation can be ensured with the dialogue with the stakeholders such as trade unions. Most importantly, awareness needs to be created with massive and innovative dissemination exercises involving multiple media outlets of various languages.

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