Social Security and Schemes in India: Overview

Social security is a system wherein the government supports people who have menial or no income by giving them monetary assistance. In the US, it’s called Welfare while it’s called the Social safety net in Europe. This provision is found in Article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Social Security in India:

In India, social security measures were introduced around 5 years after independence. This is considered to be the premier social security scheme in southeast Asia. This program came into effect on the 24th of February in 1952. It aimed at covering 25 lakh factory labor through the Employees’ State Insurance Act by helping them get good medical services, get monetary benefits in case of death or employment injury as well as maternity benefits. Ever since then, social security has been a part of many policies and schemes by the government. In the beginning, the schemes primarily focused on the youth since they usually took care of their parents who were old. But as time flew, these policies became inclusive of everyone.

According to the United Nations, the social security schemes cover pensions (for retirement, families, widows, old people, etc.), health insurance as well as medical benefits, disability benefits, maternity benefits, and gratuity. Some of the social security schemes in India include- Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act (MGNREGA), 2005; Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008; National Social Assistance Program (NSAP), 2002, etc. and Maternity Benefit Act, 1961.

The Employees’ State Insurance Act was introduced so as to create funds for the health care of employees as well as their families in case of sickness, death, maternity or disablement. It also involves the employers paying money to employees or their families if the employees are injured during work and this, in turn, leads to disability or even death. The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 asserts that entities are to pay 15 days of extra wages a year to every employee who has worked in there for 5 or more years.

Maternity Benefit Act:

Let us now understand one of the most recent schemes by the Indian government. It is the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961 which was amended recently in 2017. This act applies for women who have been working in shops, mines, factories, plantations and Government offices (or any other entities which might be notified by the Center) for a minimum of 80 days in the past 12 months. These women can attain their daily wages as their maternity benefit. This amount will be the average wage she would have actually earned each day. This benefit can be availed by the woman for a maximum of 26 weeks. Based on the nature of work, the women may also get work from home options after this. In entities with more than 50 employees, Crèches must be provided. Maternity leave is also given to women who adopt children below 3 months of age as well as commissioning mothers.

These schemes, despite having included almost everyone in the society, are not accessible for everyone. They are applicable only to those working in the organized sector (i.e., only 1 in every 10 people gets benefitted out of them).

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