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The Code of Social Security

Introduction: The Conditions of the Labourers in the World Stage

In the capitalist conveyor belt, the rights of the labourers are, in most cases, an afterthought. The corporate oligarchs used the laborers as the nonexisting bio-robots forced to serve the former. One such case of the inhumane act is the migrant workers in Dubai.

The city is the epicenter for immigrants and tourists. The skyscrapers, luxurious cars, and exotic beaches attract the elites and social media influencers to Dubai. Unfortunately, Dubai is also notorious for its human rights violations, lack of sanitation, and poor urban planning. The worst part of the notoriety is the treatment of migrant workers who come to the city for better lives.

The workers mostly come from South Asia and the Phillippines, where their employers confiscate their passports and make them work for almost an entire day. They don't even get enough salary to make their ends meet, let alone any benefits or accommodation. The pandemic made the employers leave their jobs, but their stunts had the thousands of migrant workers stuck there for a long time. Getting stuck in Dubai made them almost starved, and some even took drastic steps like suicide[i].

The perspective of Dubai that Instagram has shown us is a complete juxtapose to the conditions of the migrant workers. Dubai isn't the only guilty party[ii]. Qatar recently got under hot water because of the said treatments of the migrant workers [iii]. The upcoming Fifa World Cup 2022 is the biggest reason the controversy came into existence (If their picking wasn't controversial enough)[iv].

China, the US's nemesis in the post-Soviet world, was accused of its appalling treatment of its labourers. Their sweatshop system and their mistreatment of the Uighurs have surfaced in the past few years [v][vi]. Yet companies like Apple, Disney, Amazon, and Blizzard did not bat an eye when getting a tasty slice of the communist pie.

In other words, China is a profitable market, and they're willing to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses. It also contradicts the social justice messages they love to shove down on an average Joe's throat. It is not to mention that mistreatment of the workers is against communist principles[vii][viii].

The Conditions of the Migrant Workers in Covid Ridden India [ix][x]

The examples highlight how rotten the capitalist and communist systems are. Anyway, let's talk about the Indian context. The most controversial event surrounding the migrant workers was back in 2020. It was when the first stage of the Covid lockdown began in India. The lockdown was supposed to handle the rising cases of Covid. Unfortunately, it suffered from crucial loopholes:
  • The declaration of lockdown was a sudden move, which led to companies and employers refusing to pay salaries to their workers.
  • The lack of monetary support to make their ends meet forced the migrants to return to their homes.
  • Governmental apathy and ineffective procedures led to the stranding of the migrants. They risked facing starvation, lack of water, and even death. It made many people question the existence of the lockdown.

Definition of Social Security[xi]

An Investopedia article defines Social Security as a monetary aid program that provides aid to the workers, the old age, family members (of the deceased workers), and the people with disabilities in the United States. In the Indian context, only a minority of people have access and privileges to the social security system.

Social Security Code 2020[xii][xiii]

The political masters in the parliament passed Code on Security 2020, alongside three other codes:
  • Code on Wages,
  • Code on Industrial Relations, and
  • Code on Occupation Health and Safety of Workers
The main objective for passing those codes is to generate more employment. Other aims include the expansion of social security and making businesses more flexible.

These codes will help:
  • Make minimum wages universal,
  • Provide safe conditions and social securities to the workers or any aggrieved parties.
It should ensure said benefits to the 50 crore people in the labor workforce. The codes have consolidated 29 labor laws currently existing in our country.

Acts under the four Codes:
  • The Employees' Compensation Act, 1923;
  • The Employees' State Insurance Act, 1948;
  • The Employees' Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952;
  • The Employment Exchanges (Compulsory Notification of Vacancies) Act, 1959;
  • The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961;
  • The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972;
  • The Cine-Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1981;
  • The Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1996; and
  • The Unorganised Workers' Social Security Act, 2008

Provisions of the Act [xiv]
The Social Security Code provides benefits to the workers who are:
  • Migrants
  • Construction
  • Film industry
  • Platforms

The Social Security Code registers the workers in three categories:

Gig Worker:
Someone who does not work in the conventional industry, particularly in the online sector.
Unorganized worker: It is about someone not covered under the Industrial Dispute Act 1947. The worker must be working in the unorganized sector.

Platform Worker
Advantages and Disadavantages of the Social Security System. [xv]
 
Advantages Disadvantages
The Social Security Code has enhanced the expansion of jobs. It means that it will cover the workers in the e-commerce industry (And other non-traditional workplaces). It will benefit the workers in the platform, gig, and unorganized sectors. Gig workers will apply for maternity benefits, disability privileges, pensions, etc. Even with well intentions, the Code is not without its flaws. The first flaw is they exclude the provisions mentioned by National Labor Commission
  • For starters, the Code still retains the threshold on the number of employees. For instance, pensions and medical insurance is mandatory for 10 to 20 employees.
  • The Code also suffers from treating the employees of the same establishment differently over wages. Only eligible establishments provide better privileges to certain employees.
  • The Code has a fragmented setup for social security delivery.
The Code aims to aid the employees at a fixed rate. It will apply to both permanent and contract-fixed employees. At the event of:
  • Death and Dismemberment (Due to Accident)
  • Resignation and Retirement
  • Disease
  • Termination of contract
  • The employer will provide gratuity to the employee or their family members. Most employees see it as a welcoming move.
The Code has defined the definitions of gig workers and platform workers. To add more, setting up different schemes for the said group of workers is a must. The problem is the definitions suffer from the lapse of overlap. With the overlapping, the Code is ambiguous regarding applying the schemes.
The Code eases its compliance to pay gratuity. At the same time, it will take action to penalize the employer. If the said employer fails to pay gratuity or contribution to the employee or their family members, then they will face the consequences under the Code's provisions. Gratuity provisions in the Social Security Code and the Industrial Relations Code compete. In other words, there is a lack of clarification regarding the provisions of the aforementioned statutes. They have varied regulations regulating whether or not fixed-term employees are entitled to a gratuity. It also addresses the issue of workers with less than a one-year contract. It also raises the question of whether or not the one-year contract employees will be paid a gratuity.
With everything becoming digital, the Code ensures:
  • All data,
  • Records, and
  • Returns are maintained digitally.
When the data is digitized, it will help share the information with the necessary parties like stakeholders and government funds. It will bring compliance with the law. It will also lead facilitation of governance.
Lastly, the Code requires all workers to provide their Aadhar Card information. Providing the said information will allow the employees to get benefits under the Code. However, detractors find the move to be violative of the Supreme Court's decision in the Puttaswami Case [xvi].
The Apex Court decided that the Aadhar Card details will be viable only when:
  • The Expenditure on subsidy
  • Benefit or Service
The two above-mentioned are incurred in the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI). However, Gratuity and providence funds fall under employers and employees instead of the CFI. Thus, making the Aadhar card mandatory is a violation of the said case.
The Code brought uniformity in determining wages. Further, the definition of wages in labor laws has widened. For instance, specific exclusions of ceilings tackle the inappropriate structure of salaries. It is to minimize social security. This advantage fills the gaps of the current regulation regarding wages.
The employers require better guidance regarding compliance with the new regulations. For this reason, the Code has brought the authorities' facilitating approach. Furthermore, it enhanced the role of facilitator-cum-inspector. It is unlike the existing regulation where inspection is the only role.

Conclusion
Our country has a flawed labor system. It still suffers from forced labor, child labor, and the issues regarding workers (permanent or migrant workers). However, our laws are becoming stricter in contrast to Dubai, whose Instagram lifestyle overshadows the grim reality of the migrant workers' condition. It can take legal action against the offenders of the Social Security Code, unlike Doha, which can't even stop the suicides of migrant workers while focusing on their image because of the Fifa Worldcup 2022. It can also give rights to workers, unlike China which still subjugates the sweatshop workers and Uighurs while working with ignorant and tone-deaf American companies.

The migrant worker crisis during the initial stages of the Covid lockdown might be a debacle. However, the Social Security Code alongside the three other codes still has the chance to turn the tables around. The Codes can improve the conditions of the workers, while at the same time increasing employment during the Covid-era. However, the aforementioned disadvantages can still become potential problems for the workers. The government needs to improve the flaws in the Code so that it could regain the workers' trust. It is only then, that the workers will have better quality in their lives.

End-Notes:
  1. Pete Pattisson, Allegations of worker exploitation at worlds greatest show in Dubai, The Guardian (Feb. 2, 2022), www.theguardian.com/global-development/2022/feb/02/allegations-of-worker-exploitation-at-worlds-greatest-show-expo-2020-dubai.
  2. Adam Something, Dubai Is A Parody Of The 21st Century, YouTube (Sept. 2, 2021), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJuqe6sre2I.
  3. Niamh McIntyre, Revealed: 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar since World Cup awarded, The Guardian (Feb. 23, 2021), www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/feb/23/revealed-migrant-worker-deaths-qatar-fifa-world-cup-2022.
  4. Qatar 2022 World Cup controversy, Netivist netivist.org/debate/qatar-2022-world-cup-controversy.
  5. David Barboza, Despite a decade of criticism, worker abuse persists in China, The New York Times (Jan. 4, 2008), www.nytimes.com/2008/01/04/business/worldbusiness/04iht-sweatshop.4.9028448.html.
  6. 83 Companies Linked to Uighur Forced Labor, Save Uighur (Mar. 10, 2020), www.saveuighur.org/83-companies-linked-to-uighur-forced-labor/.
  7. Anish Bachchan, Are You Being Apolitical Because The Political Circus Doesnt Affect You?, Youth Ki Awaaz (Nov. 16, 2021), www.youthkiawaaz.com/2021/11/understanding-being-apolitical/.
  8. (Feb. 15, 2013), www.cato.org/policy-report/january/february-2013/how-china-became-capitalist.
  9. Amita Bhaduri, Migrant workers and human rights, India Water Portal (May 9, 2021), www.indiawaterportal.org/articles/migrant-workers-and-human-rights.
  10. Long Road of Struggle: Migrant Workers Return Home Empty-handed and Hungry as Lockdown Hits Hard, (May 5, 2020), www.news18.com/news/india/long-road-of-struggle-migrant-labourers-return-home-empty-handed-and-hungry-as-lockdown-hits-hard-2606847.html.
  11. Wendy Connett, Social Security, (Nov. 26, 2003), www.investopedia.com/terms/s/socialsecurity.asp.
  12. Social Security Code: growing divergence in labour industry - iPleaders, IPleaders (July 12, 2021), blog.ipleaders.in/social-security-code-growing-divergence-labour-industry/.
  13. India Briefing, Introduction to India's Social Security System, India Briefing News (Jan. 13, 2021), www.india-briefing.com/news/introduction-social-security-system-india-6014.html/.
  14. Code on Social Security, 2020 Summary, Code on Social Security, 2020 PDF Download, (May 8, 2021), byjus.com/free-ias-prep/code-on-social-security-2020/
  15. Code on Social Security, 2020 Summary, Code on Social Security, 2020 PDF Download, (May 8, 2021), byjus.com/free-ias-prep/code-on-social-security-2020/
  16. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (2017), Important SC Judgements for UPSC (Aug. 6, 2020), byjus.com/free-ias-prep/puttaswamy-case-2017-sc-judgements/
Written By: Anish Bachchan

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