Labour minister Santosh Gangwar called for a need for a global action, especially by BRICS nation, towards effecting a balance between labour and employer in order to generate growth and create more jobs while ensuring greater labour welfare.
“Safety, health, welfare and improved working conditions are essential for wellbeing of the workers,” Gangwar said while addressing the BRICS ministerial on Friday. “A healthy workforce in the country would be more productive and contribute to economic growth,” he added.
Gangwar’s emphasis on safety, health and welfare of workers comes after has government had recently passed labour codes, some of which have specific health, safety and social security provisions for the workers.
BRICS labour & employment ministers’ virtual meeting was held under Russian Presidency to discuss various issues including approaches to creating a safe work culture in BRICS countries. The ILO director general Guy Ryder, and representatives of workers and employers organisations also attended the virtual meet.
The minister underlined that the aspects of occupational safety and health measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 have also acquired significance, labour ministry said in a statement.
According to the statement, the minister informed BRICS nations that India’s Parliament had recently passed the Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions, 2020 which has expanded coverage of legal provisions to all sectors.
“The important initiatives include mandatory annual health check-up for employees; framing of dynamic health standards aligned with the changing technology by a tripartite board; permitting women to work in all establishments even at night with her consent and with stringent safety measures,” he said.
“Besides, there is a provision of providing for payment of minimum 50% of the penalty imposed on the employer to the victim besides compensation admissible under law and providing for third party audit to monitor implementation of safety provisions,” he added.
The legislation also provides for creation of a centralized data base of establishments, workplace risks, and occupational diseases.
Minister Gangwar further emphasised that an important component of safe work environment and healthy workforce is the availability of universal social security coverage to provide financial support in the times of contingencies .
“In this regard, our recently enacted labour legislation on social security has provided a framework for universal social protection to the entire 500 million workforce of the country,” he said.
“Special initiatives have been taken to frame schemes for providing social security coverage to the unorganised workers, migrant workers, self-employed and to those associated with new forms of employment such as gig and platform workers,” he added.
Emphasizing on the need for poverty eradication measures, Gangwar said that COVID-19 pandemic has brought new challenges for the world at large and hence efforts towards combating poverty need to be re-oriented.
India has adopted a multi-dimensional strategy to eliminate poverty by covering most of the basic services, such as financial inclusion and access to quality health care to the most vulnerable citizens by providing free health insurance to them.
Besides, it provides for subsidised clean cooking fuel to 80 million economically weaker households, universal access to safe and secure housing for all, free electricity to around 26 million un-electrified households, access to potable water supply to 5.5 million households and ensuring basic sanitation through construction of over 106 million household toilets.
Besides these measures, minister Gangwar said, a scheme for direct income support to farmers has also been implemented, which has already benefitted nearly 111.7 million farmers.
Speaking on the nature of labour force in the digital economy, minister Gangwar suggested need for regular studies by the BRICS Network Research Institutes to facilitate better understanding of the aspects of future of work and supplement policy making.
“We all need to work together in finding feasible and sustainable solutions to the issues and challenges facing the future of the labour force in the digital economy so that we can get the flexible employment opportunities for our workforce without compromising their fundamental rights,” he concluded.