October 11 (IPS) – The Indian government has launched an e-labor portal with an order to register 380,000,000 unorganized workers in the country. The goal of the portal is to fill the gap in the ability of unorganized workers to access social welfare and employment benefits by issuing an e-labor card (or labor card) at the time of registration.
This card gives each employee a unique 12-digit number, enabling them to access social security and employment benefits. The government plans to create India’s first Aadhaar-seeded unorganized workers’ national database (NDUW) using information collected through the portal.
At its core, this kind of initiative is a welcome change because it will bring systematically unorganized workers under one umbrella. The term ‘worker’ expands the scope of definition, enabling the inclusion of the previously excluded class of domestic workers and migrant workers.
The portal offers registration routes both online and offline. However, as described below, the failed efforts of workers to access digital portals draw attention to the importance of strengthening non-digital infrastructure. This will improve the access and effectiveness of digital intervention for poor and marginalized unorganized workers, whose realities have been damaged by a complete digital division.
Furthermore, the insights of workers seeking access and registration on the portal highlight the need for active and effective cooperation between employers, labor groups and civil society organizations (CSOs). This will help the portal reach its target beneficiaries.
Barriers to device and internet access
Efforts to register three migrant domestic workers working in New Delhi – two from West Bengal (Amira and Noor) and one from Madhya Pradesh (Rita Devi) – highlighted the barriers to access, awareness and the ability to claim benefits.
Amira’s first attempt to register digitally failed because she could not access the e-Shram portal using her keypad handset which does not have internet. Nur was next – he couldn’t access the website because the page was incompatible with his 2G internet connection and handset. And Rita, who did not have a mobile phone, relied on her employer to return her family calls.
Mobile number – barrier to access to seeded base
We then tried to use a desktop interface for registration. Amira could not register as her phone number did not match the mobile number attached to her Aadhaar. “During the Delhi migration on the train, I lost my husband and the registered number I used … As a domestic worker, I did not use any number or Aadhaar to get any employment benefits … I did not know that there are such benefits.”
Since Amira had not previously received employment welfare benefits that required mobile-Aadhaar authentication, she was unaware of the need to update her mobile number year after year. By trying to register her using Aadhaar, Amira was most skeptical about the abuse of her Aadhaar on an online portal about which she had no information. He said, “It won’t take my family’s PDS rights back to Bengal, will it?”
For Nur and Rita, online registration on the portal failed because their Aadhaar was not connected to a mobile number. Since the online e-labor portal required a mobile number-Aadhaar authentication, workers could not use digital intervention for their convenience.
In all three cases, the inability to register online highlights the need for workers to rely on general service centers (CSCs) and kiosks to help them register online and link to their Aadhaar, thus relying on non-digital infrastructure to claim digital welfare benefits.
This coincides with the results of previous reports, which show that the uncertainty of migrant workers is strengthened by the challenges they face during the process of updating their Aadhaar. Let’s discuss with the Network team, a financial inclusion initiative that tells us that migrant workers face obstacles first because of limited awareness of the process and second because of the time and financial costs involved.
This was especially noticeable during the epidemic when workers faced limited access to welfare due to problems updating Aadhaar, relying on non-digital infrastructure and intermediaries to assist them.
Creating an inclusive and supportive ecosystem for e-labor beneficiaries
As the government moves towards creating Aadhaar-seeded NDUWs in India and to facilitate access to welfare facilities for unorganized workers, some gaps remain to be filled. Filling this gap is essential for the effective inclusion of 100% of informal workshops in India, which have so far remained on the margins of employment-related welfare facilities.
Governments and welfare ecosystems need to address issues that hinder workers’ ability to effectively utilize infrastructure in order to claim these benefits. Here are some key areas to consider:
D. Eliminate digital divisions
Unorganized workers make up 922 percent of India’s workers. In India, only 4.4 percent of rural and 2 percent of urban households have access to the Internet, which is further undermined by gender and regional disparities.
In this digitally unequal landscape, the prospect of a bio-digital emergence of e-labor seems like a distant dream. However, the use of existing non-digital welfare infrastructure বোর্ড welfare boards, fair price stores (FPS), CSC agents, and CSOs working with grassroots and unorganized workers, can lead to faster and more efficient adoption.
2. Strengthen confidence and reach
Or historically, many unorganized workers have been left out of state employment benefits. Aiming at their first inclusion, the portal needs to create awareness and trust between the beneficiaries and the employment ecosystem about the benefits of registration.
Since informality remains a feature not only of state-worker relations, but also of worker-employer relations, it is important to strengthen trust between workers and their employers about the merits of this initiative. Here, awareness campaigns based on multilingual posters and voice-based awareness initiatives will encourage registration, especially among migrant, female and adolescent workers, who are currently marginalized due to literacy and language limitations.
3. Strengthening non-digital infrastructure
Effective digital intervention for unorganized workers needs to be supported by a strong non-digital infrastructure. To make an impact on the scale, the government should invest in training and capacity building of non-digital infrastructure, including CSCs and kiosks, which will be the first step in using the workers ’portal effectively.
In addition, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), and the Public Distribution System (PDS) may be able to deliver the last milestones to the existing milestones from other government interventions. .
4. Avoid self-selection of workers outside the facility
The e-Shram portal extends social welfare benefits to households and migrant workers who have so far been excluded from the welfare infrastructure. It calls for special attention to be paid to raising awareness of rights among workers who have been left out in both labor and policy.
In terms of policy, women account for the historical gender-based exclusion of domestic work, while most domestic workers remain ignorant of their rights and the rights they deserve. This is even worse when workers migrate to the destination state where they have limited bargaining power with their employers. In this context, an active awareness campaign will help workers avoid self-exclusion and promote equitable inclusion as beneficiaries.
5. Integrating employers and CSOs as stakeholders
Finally, given the informal relationship between employers and employees in the unorganized sector, it is important to work with CSOs, employers and intermediaries. Contractor And contractors enable an ecosystem that focuses on worker benefits.
Encouraging employers to register can create potential awareness as well as potential benefits for unorganized workers without any penalties from employers. In particular, integrating CSO with e-labor can be seen in two ways.
First, it enables employees access to their existing programs through private volunteer-based registration. Second, it partners with CSOs for the effective distribution of benefits as in previous efforts in the health and education domain. Effective grassroots integration can provide a misguided space for cooperating and strengthening the welfare ecosystem of unorganized workers.
Harshita Sinha He is a PhD candidate at the London School of Economics who works with migrant workers and the Indian informal labor market. He is a Migration Fellow with India Migration Now and Brother Urban Tech. His work sees the intersection of citizenship and informal labor systems in urban destination states. He recently created Voices of Informality, a knowledge platform whose goal is to highlight grassroots stories on informality for practice-based action.
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