At a high-level United Nations meet, Union Finance Minister details government moves to protect labour benefits.
India is successfully carrying out the world’s largest free vaccination programme against COVID-19 and has taken strategic steps towards jobs and social protection during the pandemic, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at a high-level United Nations meet.
Stressing on the need for collaboration and learning from the experiences of other countries, the Minister shared ideas with the panel on jobs and social protection for poverty eradication, based on India’s experience.
“India unveiled a financial package of $366 billion amounting to more than 13% of GDP to create employment opportunities for workers in the unorganised sector, strengthening the MSME sector and for promoting the rural economy,” Ms. Sitharaman said.
“To improve social protection, in the place of archaic labour laws, our government brought in the new Social Security and Wage Code. This will ensure wider coverage, faster settlement of dues and clarity about benefits,” the Minister said, adding that a new portal has now been launched to ensure ‘last mile delivery’ for millions of unorganised sector workers.
“A comprehensive social protection system envisaged to be created under the proposed global accelerator for jobs and social protection should have digitalisation of public financial management systems at the core of the design,” she pointed out, citing India’s direct benefit transfer system that uses Jan Dhan accounts, Aadhaar and mobile phones and helped roll out social protection measures without any delay during the pandemic.
Referring to the government’s programme for paying Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) contributions for three months for employees and employers during the first and the second COVID-19 wave, Ms Sitharaman said this enabled the inclusion of 7.81 million workers in the formal social security framework.
“Insights from behavioural economics can be leveraged in onboarding those workers who are currently not covered under social protection schemes or to formal social security nets,” she noted, adding that mental well-being of the vulnerable also needs attention.
“One key principle underpinning post-pandemic recovery with policies integrating health and social protection is the institutional recognition of the need for mental well-being of the vulnerable sections through psycho-social support. Future policies must adequately provide for this imperative,” she concluded.