At the 17th Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting (APRM) of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Singapore, international workers’ groups criticised India’s labour policies, including the four new labour codes.
Key discussions in the event: (India-specific)
- India’s new labour codes violate ‘tripartite agreements’ between workers, employers and the government— and give a free hand to employers.
The tripartite agreement ensures the following:
- A contract with governments and employers and particularly at the national level.
- A contract which is based on the availability of decent jobs for all; respect of rights for all;
- fair wages including minimum wage;
- adequate and easily available social protection;
- respect for equality;
- inclusiveness and
- No forms of discrimination.
- The power of inspection has been left with employers through the new codes, and it will threaten the tripartite system in the country.
- The ILO chief has urged to focus on the following:
- Recognising persisting skills challenges affecting demand-driven skills development and lifelong learning benefits governments, employers and workers,
- sustainable development,
- Productivity growth and economic prosperity.
- Digital skills, core skills, entrepreneurial skills and soft skills should be better harnessed.
- Focus on the Unorganised sector:
- India has the largest youth population in the world and the country is observing a technological and entrepreneurial boom with start-ups and small businesses mushrooming across the country.
- For ensuring the development of all, measures, like identifying workers in the unorganised sector and prioritising their needs through platforms like the E-Shram portal.
- Extending health coverage through ESIC, are measures to extend universal social security that is leading to a reduction in inequality.
- Singapore mentioned that lower-wage workers everywhere are disproportionately affected by economic upheavals and high inflation.
- They aim to enhance the government’s approach via the ‘Progressive Wage Model’.
- This approach has helped to raise real income at the 20th percentile of full-time employed residents by 2.7% per annum from 2016 to 2021, compared to the median income growth of 2.1% per annum, helping to reduce the income gap.
What are the present norms for labours in India?
- Under the Constitution of India, Labour as a subject is in the Concurrent List and, therefore, both the Central and the State governments are competent to enact legislation subject to certain matters being reserved for the Centre.
- Article 14:It provides for equality before the law or equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
- Article 16:It talks about the right to equal opportunity in matters of public employment.
- Article 39(c): It specifies that the economic system should not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the detriment of the entire society.
- In the case of Randhir Singh vs Union of India, the Supreme Court stated that even though the principle of ‘Equal pay for Equal work’ is not defined in the Constitution of India, it is a goal which is to be achieved through Articles 14,16 and 39 (c) of the Constitution of India.
Legislative framework: There have been several legislative and administrative initiatives taken by the government to improve working conditions and simplify labour laws. The most recent is the consolidated set of 4 labour codes which are yet to be implemented.
- Code of Wages, 2019
- Industrial Relations Code, 2020
- Social Security Code, 2020
- Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020
- The implementation process is delayed as states are yet to finalise their rules under these codes.
What were the reforms introduced by the Government?
- The new codes have thrown light on the role of an "Inspector-cum-Facilitator" who has the responsibility of checking for compliance as well as facilitating businesses in achieving that compliance.
- The "facilitator" role seems to be a new element and this role could clash with the traditional responsibilities of an "inspector".
- This would enable companies to introduce arbitrary service conditions for their workers.
Do they justify the demands of Labours in India?
The laws aim to solve a few issues, however, left out include;
- Gig workers
- Small Start-ups and Informal Sectors Left-out From Social Security Coverage
- Migrant workers, self-employed workers, home-based workers, and other vulnerable groups in rural areas are not covered under social security benefits.
- Non-Inclusion of Charitable or Non-Profit Based Establishment
- Simplification of the Complex laws
- Easier Dispute Resolution
- Ease of Doing Business
- Gender Parity
- Lack of reducing social inequality
- Exclusion of small sector labours
- No provisions for Gender-based incentives
Recent Government Initiatives:
- Unique Labour Identification Number (LIN) allotted to all labour for maintaining data records.
- ESI Coverage has been extended to Construction workers in the implemented area. Construction site Workers have been covered to avail benefits under the ESI Scheme from 1st August 2015.
The ESI Act., of 1948 envisages an integrated social insurance scheme to provide social security to industrial workers in certain contingencies such as sickness, maternity, temporary or permanent physical disablement and death due to employment injury resulting in loss of wages or earning capacity.