Parliamentary committee recommends money in banks, social security measures for informal workers – Community News
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Parliamentary committee recommends money in banks, social security measures for informal workers

‘Pandemic has made things worse for women, youth, self-employed, migrants’.

Direct transfer of money to bank accounts of informal workers and an urban employment guarantee scheme were among the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labor in its report on the impact of the pandemic on rising unemployment and job losses.

The report, presented in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday and submitted on Tuesday in the Rajya Sabha, said: “The pandemic has devastated the labor market, affected the employment scenario and threatened the survival of millions of workers and their families.” The panel, chaired by Bhartruhari Mahtab, called on the government to improve social security measures for workers.

Citing the Periodic Labor Force Survey (PLFS), the report said 90% of workers work in the informal sector, which is 419 million out of 465 million workers. The PLFS quarterly report for April-June 2020 showed the unemployment rate in urban areas for those over the age of 15 at 20.8%, up from 9.1% in January-March 2020.

The committee noted that the PLFS data from years prior to the pandemic was available and that the real impact of COVID-19 would not be visible until the PLFS for 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 are available. He requested the Ministry of Labor to address the issue of the timely completion of the PLFS with the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation.

Significant income losses

“While research data is not yet available on the impact of the second wave, which is arguably more severe than the first, anecdotal evidence and the situation during the first wave suggest that there would have been significant income losses, particularly in the informal sector, causing the vulnerable plunge deeper into crisis,” the report said.

The panel said it was of the “studied view that the COVID-19 crisis in India arose against the backdrop of pre-existing high and rising unemployment”.

“Therefore, a comprehensive plan and roadmap are needed to address the deteriorating labor situation, exacerbated by the pandemic, and the increasing inequalities in the labor market in the organized sector… The employment created as a result of the two imposed lockdowns would go a long way to alleviating their misery.”

Some of the suggestions included strengthening social security measures and the ability to “deposit money into the informal workers’ bank accounts during adverse conditions such as COVID-19”. The panel noted that, as in most countries, in India too, the pandemic had exacerbated matters for women, youth, the self-employed, migrants and workers with low and medium skills.

“The government should therefore strive to support a recovery that is robust, broad-based and women-centric and based on social dialogues with all relevant stakeholders to promote and ensure a seamless transition,” it said.

Universal healthcare

The panel said universal health care should become a legal obligation of the government and the budget allocation for MGNREGA should be increased. It said an urban job guarantee scheme along the lines of the MGNREGA should be implemented.

The committee noted the government’s efforts to address workers’ problems over the past year. The Welfare Boards for state buildings and other construction workers had paid out ₹5,618 crore to the bank accounts of 1.83 workers during the first wave and ₹1,704.3 crore was paid to 1.18 crore workers in the second wave.

The panel noted the lack of a study by the Department of Labor to measure the impact of its advice on employers’ hiring and firing policies. The committee blamed the ministry for the delay in developing a national database of disorganized workers, which the Secretary of Labor and Employment said would now be completed by August 15.

“When the entire nation witnessed a heartbreaking picture of lakhs of migrant workers walking helplessly back to their hometowns with nothing to fall back on, the commission finds it surprising that the ministry has waited a staggering two months, i.e. until June 2020 to write to the state governments and also that after urging the Supreme Court, to collect much-needed detailed data from the migrant workers. (sic),” the report said.

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