The Modi Government has been working hard to integrate the informal sector into the mainstream economy, as this would not only fill its coffers, but also give a boost to entrepreneurship in a big way. Amongst other factors, small businesses in particular would be able to obtain finance necessary for growth.
At the same time, however, it is also necessary that workers involved in this sector, particularly in the field of services, should also be benefited in a way that their contributions can be aggregated and magnified. Presently, despite the huge role they play in the economy, they cannot achieve the stability required to go up the social and economic scales. This naturally blocks the much sought after upgrading of skills.
Despite all the socialist talk and so-called welfare measures of the past governments, nothing substantial at all was done for the working class. Instead of viewing people as contributors to the economy through their labour, they were seen as members of various castes and dealt with accordingly. This completely overlooked the secular nature of the workplace, particularly in the urban environment. Labour laws and departments focused almost entirely on the organised labour of the formal sector, which constitutes a miniscule part of the nation’s working class.
Just as informed decisions are today possible because of data provided through measures like Aadhar, the primary goal of the government ought to be creation of a register of workers, providing coverage, both, horizontally and vertically. Aadhar should make this easy. Real time information would become available about who is working where. It would then be possible to integrate this vast human resource with welfare programmes such as provident fund, pensions, medical insurance, etc. From the day a person crosses the age of twenty-one, enrolment should be made compulsorily on a graded scale for medical and term insurance. The prospect of receiving pensions, provident fund, loans and other benefits would prove an incentive for youth to enter the work force at whatever level possible, rather than indulge in wasteful activities. So, a person might be a gardener, cook, security man, rickshaw puller, vendor, etc., changing jobs frequently, but there would be continuity and stability in that there would be a record of how much has been contributed to the national economy. He or she would then be provided social welfare support accordingly. Right now, it is all arbitrary. Many people are left out. Those who suffer injuries or die are simply forgotten – their families pushed back into poverty, getting no cumulative returns from the work put in by the person over the years.
This is the time to do it and the governments, central and state, should have the gumption to implement it.