Identity numbers for unorganised workers

New Delhi: The Union government is planning to allot unique numbers to the 400 million-plus workers in the unorganised sector as the first step towards ensuring social security benefits for this vast segment of people who often labour under hazardous conditions.

Some worker leaders, however, said the move appeared to be more like propaganda rather than a sincere effort.

The finance ministry has approved a proposal by the ministry of labour and employment to roll out the Unorganised Workers Identification Number (UWIN) for all workers from the next financial year.

According to the proposal, each person engaged in the unorganised sector, such as domestic workers, private drivers and those working in unregistered units, would be allotted a unique number.

"There will be a central database of workers based on the UWIN number. There is a plan to ensure social security benefits like health and life insurance and provident fund for these workers," M. Sathiyavathy, secretary in the ministry of labour and employment, said.

Sathiyavathy said the ministry had already held two rounds of meetings with the state governments on the UWIN plan.

There is a possibility that the UWIN number will be linked with the Aadhaar number of the workers to help the government keep track whether benefits were reaching the intended beneficiaries.

The government is in the process of bringing in four broad laws subsuming all the 40-odd labour laws. One of the proposed laws would be on social security and welfare, Sathiyavathy said.

The proposed law might have a provision to make the government pay for provident fund and insurance for a section of workers whose earning is less than a threshold. The law and rules will specify the threshold.

Workers in the unorganised sectors don't get any social security now and mostly work under hazardous conditions.

Tapan Sen, general secretary of the CPM's labour arm Citu, said the UWIN plan sounded more like propaganda. He said Parliament had passed the Unorganised Workers' Social Security Act in 2008 that provided for welfare schemes like life and disability cover, health and maternity benefits and old-age protection for unorganised workers.

"But the central government is yet to frame rules under the 2008 law. The government decided to allot a Universal Account Number to every provident fund contributing member two years ago. As on date, less than 50 per cent of PF members have got the UAN number. This UWIN is a similar propaganda," Sen said.

RSS-affiliate Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh welcomed the move. "The government is going to ensure social security for the workers," BMS zonal organizing secretary Pawan Kumar said. "The UWIN is part of the initiative. This is a good initiative. We welcome it."


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