Social protection of the workers in the unorganized sector.

AuthorSubrahmanya, R.K.A.
PositionBy Invitation - Abstract


For purposes of this paper the term social protection is taken to be an extension of the term social security in its broadest sense.

The Director General of the ILO in his report to the 80th Session of the International Labor Conference stated that the system of social insurance in the early 1900s, their subsequent development into generalized systems of social security and their more recent evolution into nearly universal systems of Social Protection have been the central features of social development in the 20th Century. Tracing this development the DG stated that the term social protection "encompasses a framework of social protection which provides generalized basic social support for all citizens regardless of contribution or employment history although these factors remain important in determining the level of some benefits above the basic minimum. This has enabled the State to extend income support to individuals on the basis of need rather than acquired rights, and has facilitated the provision of health care to the entire populations. In these new structures benefit levels tend to be set by governments in relation to needs rather than entitlements and contribution rates have become the dependent variable frequently indistinguishable from general taxes in their incidence." (ILO, 1993)

More recently the ILO has adopted a recommendation concerning Social Protection Floors which require the member states to establish social protection floors constituting "nationally defined sets of basic social security guarantees which secure protection aimed at preventing or alleviating poverty, vulnerability and social exclusion." The recommendation further requires that "the guarantees should ensure at a minimum that, over the life cycle, all in need have access to essential health care and to basic income security which together secure effective access to goods and services defined as necessary at the national level."

So defined, the term social protection includes all measures designed by the state or society to assure every person access to essential medical care and a minimum income necessary for maintenance of an appropriate or reasonable standard of life and to protect the same against loss or diminution due to the occurrence of any contingency. Assurance of a minimum income can be secured, in the case of persons who are able to work, by enabling them to work by education and training and providing them with opportunities for gainful employment. In the case of persons who are not able to work for any reason, chronic or otherwise, they may be provided with a minimum income or a means of livelihood in the form of pension under an insurance or assistance scheme.

Lack of income may be chronic or temporary. If a person has no employment either because he is unemployable being too old, too weak or being incapacitated for any work or because he has not been able to find employment he would have no means of earning his living. In such a situation the lack of income may be said to be chronic. In any other case where a person is employed but there is an interruption in his income due to sickness accident maternity or loss of employment due to retrenchment or closure of an establishment the lack of income may be temporary. In either case unless the person can fall back on his past savings, if any, he has to depend on somebody else for his /her living. That somebody else may be a member of the family, community, the civil society, the employer or the State. Where the person depends on the State or the society the public measures by which his needs are met would be in the nature of social security

In India, there is a broad framework of social protection which includes employment security, health security, food security and other conventional forms of income security, such as maternity benefit, invalidity benefit old age benefit. Some of the major schemes under which such protection is provided are mentioned below:

National Social Assistance Program

The National Social Assistance Program (NSAP) which came into effect from 15th August, 1995 represents a significant step towards the fulfillment of the Directive Principles in Article 41 of the Constitution. The program introduced a National Policy for Social Assistance for the poor and aims at ensuring minimum national standard for social assistance in addition to the benefits that states are currently providing or might provide in future. NSAP at present, comprises Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS), Indira Gandhi National Widow Pension Scheme (IGNWPS), Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme (IGNDPS), National Family Benefit Scheme (NFBS) and Annapurna. The total number of beneficiaries under all the Schemes of the Program is about 21 million and the total amount of the estimated outlay during the current year is about Rs.8500 crore.

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Program

Unemployment and under employment are basic causes of insecurity. The government of India has framed several schemes to provide employment to those in need of it. Of these the most important is the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Program. This program aims at enhancing livelihood security of households in rural areas of the country by providing at least one hundred days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. It also mandates 1/3 participation by women. The primary objective of the scheme is to augment wage employment. The scheme was notified in 200 districts in the first phase with effect from Feb 2006 and then it was extended all over...

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