It is argued that the lack of social security for women in the informa...
Jun 15, 2020
It is argued that the lack of social security for women in the informal economy needs to be addressed. Discuss.
More than 90 per cent of working people in our country are engaged in the informal economy.
The most vulnerable are women who suffer from multiple disadvantages — as women, as poor, informal workers and as members of the socially disadvantaged castes and communities that predominate the informal sector.
They keep the wheels of the economy turning with their labour, and yet they have limited or no social protection to act as a cushion in hard times.
As the suffering of informal, migrant workers plays out across India, and along with no livelihood, the vast majority of citizens, mainly informal workers, cannot seek support from even basic social security.
Social security for all informal workers, including migrants, has been a long-standing demand of unions like the Self-Employed Women’s Association, SEWA, and other national unions.
The proposed economic stimulus and livelihood packages, recently announced, will hopefully translate into some support for informal workers.
But, there is a need to think about their minimum social security — both to tide over the current crisis and for longer-term support.
The current pandemic has brought home the fact that those states with strong public health systems, decentralised planning and implementation through PRIs with active community participation, and, partnerships with civil society organisations, local cooperatives, unions, collectives and others — were able to meet the COVID-19 challenge and flatten the curve.
They have already, ably and selflessly, served their local communities during this pandemic — in both villages and informal settlements in our urban areas. Investing in them and their capacity-building will serve as a bulwark for the daily health crises that people face and also the pandemics and epidemics of the future.
Local women are most suited to running such holistic childcare centres with proper capacity-building training and support, and fair remuneration at minimum wage level.
There is also the importance of insurance cover for all workers. PMJAY may have made a solid start for some but there are still lakhs of workers who are not eligible due to the enrolment criteria or because they are still struggling to fully comprehend the system — where to go, whom to ask for help and more.
Besides, health insurance is not the only coverage that workers need. They require a comprehensive cover with products covering several of the many risks they face every day — life, accident, asset, crop and cattle and small animal insurance, to mention a few.
Pension is well-recognised as another essential aspect of social security.
Already states and the central government have announced increases in the pension amounts for workers.
These need to be examined together with unions, cooperatives and other collectives of informal workers to see how appropriate they are and also how these can reach all in a timely and simple manner.