Identifying and recording | The Indian Express – Community News
Social Security

Identifying and recording | The Indian Express

The migrant labor crisis that unfolded last year during the Covid-induced national lockdown exposed the gaping holes in India’s social security architecture. The lack of credible data on the migrant workforce, the inability to identify them quickly enough, meant that little policy support could be provided to this section during a period of acute economic distress. But this absence of comprehensive, detailed data extends well beyond the migrant workers and encompasses the entire disorganized labor force, which makes up about 90 percent of the total labor force in the country. In the absence of this, it is difficult not only to design appropriate policy support, but also to guarantee benefits in times of need. To fill this glaring gap, the government has launched the e-Shram portal – a database of disorganized workers. This is a welcome and long-awaited step. The identification and registration of these workers marks the first step in a long journey towards creating a social security structure for this segment of the workforce.

As mentioned in this article, about a fifth of the estimated disorganized workers in the country are now registered in the database – the government hopes to register 38 crore disorganized workers. Odisha leads the reporting with about 87 percent of its disorganized employees registered on the portal, followed by West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar. Preliminary snapshots of the database show that 40.5 percent of disorganized workers belong to the OBC category, 27.4 percent to the general category, 23.7 percent to Scheduled Castes and 8.3 percent to Scheduled Tribes. The portal also collects information about the occupations that the workers practice. As stated in this document, the maximum registrations were in the agricultural sector (53.6 percent), followed by construction (12.2 percent) and domestic and domestic workers (8.71). per cent). As some sectors/occupations have been hit harder by the pandemic, this is vital information. Governments could tailor specific programs to help those segments of the disorganized workforce that are suffering from economic disruption. The database will also reportedly be linked to Unnati, the proposed employment contract platform.

There are a number of issues that require more government attention. Firstly, the information collected on workers, especially on migrants, will need to be updated regularly. The countries of origin and destination will have to do this and keep track of circular migration. Secondly, registration should be encouraged for those who do not want it. Third, the eligibility criteria for schemes that rely on information not collected by the e-Shram portal should also be integrated. There is also the issue of benefit portability, extensive at both the central and state levels, which will need to be explored. Creating a database of employees alone is not enough, but identifying and registering employees is a step towards inclusion in social security systems and creating a more comprehensive and robust social security architecture.