Social Security Code for New India

The government is in the process of formulating the code on social security and welfare for the third time as the trade unions and industry bodies had raised objections to some provisions in the earlier draft.

The social security code is part of government’s effort to overhaul the country’s labour laws to condense them into four codes. The social security code must be inclusive because a selective coverage is meaningless. The social security will yield meaningful social cohesion and dignity only if every citizen should be eligible for social security.

How India must mould its Social Security Code?

The government must look beyond the conventional notion of social security wherein it would make periodic payments to look after people in their old age, ill-health/disability and indigence.

The idea of Social security should conceptually change from writing a cheque for the beneficiary to constituting institutional arrangements to care for beneficiaries, including by enabling them to look after themselves, to a large extent.

Why there is a need to break away from conventional approach?

This write-a-cheque model of social security is a legacy from the westren world which is at the optimal phase of its demographic transition i.e. when the working population was numerous enough and earning enough to generate the taxes to pay for the care of those not working.

This model is ill-suited for India which is less well-off and is witnessing a growing life expectancy, increasing urbanisation and resultant migration due to the radical shifts in the nature of production and of work.

No One Size Fits All Approach

For example someone might have a home in the village, but they may need a place to stay in the city where he/she goes to work. Housing for all will not meet this requirement. What an urbanising society which is witnessing a shift in the nature of production and work requires is a plentiful supply of affordable rental accommodation.

Beneficiary Unit

India needs to ponder over the question of whether the beneficiary unit be the family or the individual? India is witnessing a process of urbanization, What is considered a family in a traditional society would be spatially distributed in an urbanizing society as dependent parents stay back in the village while the earning members work in different cities. Hence there is a need to target the individual rather than the family in moulding the social security code which is inclusive.

Resource Mobilisation for Social Security

The big task for India would be mobilising the resources for funding the social security for such a huge population. The quantum of resources India would require depends on the questions how social security is conceptualized? Who are the elderly, and what are they capable of?

Currently, in India anyone who crosses the age of 60 is perceived as a dependent incapable of doing anything productive or earning anything. The quantum of resources required for social security would be reduced if those over 60 are recognized as people capable of contributing to society but on a flexible schedule and at varying levels of intensity of work. Hence India must look at tapping the potential of the Senior Citizens.

Broadening the Ambit

Social security must not just unemployment allowance it should include worker retraining. Social security should help elders to deploy their skills to match the demand anywhere in the world.

Comprehensive healthcare and a quality education system would add into social security by improving work-life earnings and enhancing the earning capacity of the next generation. Hence India must rethink social security in holistic terms.

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