Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Smart cards soon for unorganised sector workers

Every worker in the unorganised sector may soon be issued a smart card with a unique identification number for accessing social schemes and benefits. The portable benefits card will be issued under the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008.
On December 25, the Gujarat Chief Minister launched such a card, “U-WIN,” in the State, and announced that benefits under various social security schemes would be routed to registered workers through this card. The Prime Minister joined the function through videoconferencing from Varanasi.
“The Gujarat launch was a pilot for launching the card in all States. It is likely to be launched before the end of the financial year,” said a senior official in the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
Officials said workers’ details may be seeded with the card at a later point.
“The proposal is all workers must get three things — health insurance, pension and disability assistance. This card will allow workers to self-certify that they are unorganised sector workers, and get these benefits through a portable card,” said another official.
By the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector Report, 2005, over 394 million workers, 87 per cent of the country’s working population, are in the unorganised sector. The report said 79 per cent of these workers lived on less than Rs. 20 a dayIn Gujarat, the government announced that benefits under 20 schemes, including education aid, maternity benefits, funeral benefits, accident group insurance scheme and housing, would be routed through the cards.
The Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008, passed after the setting up of the NCEUS in 2004 under Arjun Sengupta, provides for constitution of the National Social Security Advisory Board at the Central level, which is to recommend social security schemes, health and maternity benefits and pension schemes for unorganised workers. It said that every adult worker could self-certify that he or she worked in the unorganised sector and shall be issued a smart card and a unique identification number.
“A universal, portable smart card which will provide social security benefits to all unorganised sector workers will be a good step. But at the same time, employment security of formal employment is being watered down,” Ravi Srivastava, an NCEUS member, said.

“The registration with a portable smart card and its integration with the registration under the Building & Construction Workers Act is a positive first step but will have little meaning unless the Acts/schemes also allow for portability,” he said.


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