Monday, September 8, 2014

Achievements and Initiatives in the Ministry of Labour and Employment

Ministry of Labour & Employment is administering 44 Labour Laws. These laws are enforced by Central and State Enforcement agencies in their respective spheres. Multiplicity of Labour Laws and complexities in compliance have been a matter of concern for a long time. There have been requests for ensuring simplification of formats, ease of compliance, effectiveness of inspections and speedy redressal of grievances.

2.       In order to address these concerns Ministry of Labour & Employment is developing a Single Unified Labour portal for Online Registration of units, submission of annual returns, Reporting of inspections, and redressal of grievances.

3.       The pilot project is being operationalized in four organizations in Central Sphere namely the Chief Labour Commissioner (Central) organization, the Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC), Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) and Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS) covering 16 Labour Laws to start with. The web portal is being developed and maintained by the National Informatics Centre (NIC).

4.       Each Employer/Establishment will be allotted a Unique Labour Identification Number (Shram Pehchan Sankhya) for online registration on this integrated Web portal. Complete information of all 11 lakh units for these organizations is being collected, digitized and de-duplicated. It is proposed to allot LIN to all these unique units. The annual Return format is being harmonised and simplified with amendments to respective Rules.   With the given LIN number, the employer will be prompted about the applicable Acts and be able to file a single unified annual return instead of filing separate returns under individual Acts. This will be a step forward in promoting the ease of doing business. 

5.       The web portal will also provide for online Grievance Redressal System integrated with Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances (DARPG) portal.
6.       The web portal will contribute proactively to achieve the objective of compliance of labour regulations and harmonising compliance across Labour Acts/organisations.
Labour Inspection Scheme   
About 175000 inspections are carried out annually by 4 central agencies in the central sphere. So far these units were selected locally without any specific criteria. A computerized Inspection Scheme has been designed with the objective of enhancing effectiveness of labour inspections and ensuring transparency. It also aims to ensure focussed inspections based on objective criteria.
2.       The Scheme will be operative in the Central Sphere covering 4 organisations namely Chief Labour Commissioner (Central) organization, the Employees State Insurance Corporation (ESIC), Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) and Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS).

3.       A Central Analysis and Inspection Unit will be set up in each of the 4 organisations to analyse the complaints centrally according to data and evidence. The inspection report formats of EPFO, ESIC, CLC(C) and DGMS have been simplified with online inspection schemes based on computerized  system for random allotment of inspection. The scheme has also been linked to web Portal for online reporting of harmonized inspection report by Labour Inspector/Inspecting Officer. Under the scheme, the Inspection Report will be uploaded on web portal within 72/120 hours after the inspection. Monitoring of Inspections will be based on Key Performance Indices.
Major Amendments proposed in the Factories Act, 1948

·        The threshold limit for coverage under the Factories Act to include besides the existing limits of 10 workers (for units with power) and 20 workers (for units without power), units with such number of workers as may be prescribed by the State Government with a cap of 20 workers (for units with power) and 40 workers (for units without power) respectively. 

·        Permission for employment of women for night work for a factory or group or class or description of factories with adequate safeguards for safety and provision of transportation till the doorstep of their residence. 

·        Enhancement of limit of overtime hours from the present limit of 50 hours per quarter to 100 hours per quarter. This limit to be increased to a maximum of 125 hours per quarter in public interest with the approval of State Government.

·        Insertion of provision relating to compounding of certain offences  and amendment of the Act enhancing the quantum of penalty for offences.

·        Increase in the period of spread over from 10.5 hours to 12 hours by State Government through notification in the Official Gazette.

·        Provision of personal protective equipment for workers exposed to various hazards.  Stricter provisions regarding entry into confined spaces and precautions against dangerous fumes, gases etc.

·        Provision of canteen facilities in respect of factories employing 200 or more workers instead of the present stipulation of 250 workers and also provision of shelters or restrooms and lunchrooms in respect of factories employing 75 or more workers instead of the present stipulation of 150 workers.

·        Introduction of new terms like “hazardous substance” and “disability” to existing definitions.

·        Prohibition of employment of pregnant women (it was earlier for all women) and persons with disabilities on or near machinery in motion and near cotton openers.

·        Reduction in the eligibility criteria for entitlement of annual leave with wages from 240 days to 90 days.

·        Central Government also empowered to make rules under the Act on some of the important provisions.  

Status: After stakeholder consultation, the amendment Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in August 2014.

Amendments in Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by Certain Establishments) Act, 1988.

   The Government also gave notice of its intention to move certain official amendments to the Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by Certain Establishments) Act, 1988 which would
(i)                Expand the coverage of the Act to establishments having up to 40 workers from the existing 19 workers.
(ii)              Increase the number of Acts in the Schedule from 9 to 16.
(iii)      Simplify the annual returns and reduce the registers required to be maintained.
(iv)      Permit maintenance of records in electronic form and submit returns  electronically.

Status: The proposal was put up for public consultation on the Ministry’s website. The Amendment Bill is pending in the Rajya Sabha.
Social Security For Organized Workers:
The Government has notified the enhancement in the statutory monthly wage ceiling for making contribution under the EPF & MP Act 1952 from Rs. 6500 p.m to Rs. 15,000/- w.e.f 1.9.2014. This is likely to extend PF coverage to an additional 50 lakh workers.

It has also notified the enhancement in Minimum pension to pensioners under Employees’ Pension Scheme 1995 to Rs.1,000/- w.e.f 1.9.2014, which is likely to benefit about 28 lakh existing pensioners.

As part of the endeavor to improve the services to members of EPFO and introducing Portability of Accounts, KYC seeding in respect of all 4.17 crore members (in respect of whom at least one contribution has been received during the period of January to June, 2014 and the member has not exited as per its records) has been undertaken. Bank account, Aadhaar number and PAN number etc. are being collected and opening of new Jan Dhan accounts and Aadhaar Numbers is being facilitated in the respective establishments.  This will facilitate portability of PF accounts across jobs and geographies. Nearly 35% of the UANs have been seeded till date. With the activation of the UAN services, the members will be able to collate their PF accounts.  The members can also view their updated accounts and can download the same.  UAN will also help in counting their pensionable services. This will also obviate the intermediation of the employers between the members and EPFO for all services including withdrawal, transfer etc.
EPFO has also launched an online registration facility for convenience of the employers.  During the month of July and August, 4700 establishments have availed this facility and have got PF codes online. With the assistance of State Bank of India, facility has been given to the employers by which the employers can now deposit their PF contributions through 58 other banks with which SBI has created an internet payment gateway.

 Improvement in Medical Services:
In order to improve the medical care provided by ESIC to its members, a high powered Committee under the chairmanship of Secretary (Labour & Employment) reviewed the medical services and accordingly, the following initiatives have been approved and implemented:-
a.             To empower the State Governments and strengthen the monitoring mechanism of medical care delivery system, ESIC has approved institutional mechanism in the form of inter-alia, the State Executive Committee. The State Executive Committee has been empowered for taking up of renovation work, annual repair and maintenance, empanelment and de-empanelment of tie-up super-specialty hospitals, apart from other functions. This State Executive Committee will have powers of up to Rs.3.00 crore for special repair of 200 bedded hospitals and up to Rs.5.00 crore for special repair of ESI hospitals with more than 200 beds. It will have powers up to Rs.50.00 lakhs for executing special repair works related to dispensaries.

b.            To ensure quality and supply of drugs, drugs testing policy has been revised.  Computer programme based random sampling from amongst all the batches received shall be carried out and sent  for testing by the indenting units.

c.             Strengthening of Insurance Medical Practitioners (IMP) system in order to provide medical care services in the areas where dispensaries cannot be opened up due to less number of IPs or dispensaries, services cannot be started because of non-availability of building/infrastructure etc.  Annual fee to be paid to IMPs has been revised from Rs.150/- to Rs.300/- per IP.
d.            Dispensaries with a heavy patient load are to be upgraded to provide basic lab investigation facilities in order to minimize references to the hospitals.
e.             The ESI Corporation also increased the ceiling on medical expenditure being reimbursed to the State Govts. from Rs.1500/- per insured person family per annum to Rs.2000/- per annum. 
f.              The Medical Benefit under the ESI Scheme has now been extended to the widow spouses of deceased/retired/superannuated Insured Persons as well as to the widow spouses of Insured Persons who ceases to be in an insurable employment on account of Permanent Disablement, and also to widows of Insured Persons who are in receipt of Dependents’ Benefit.
ESIC is providing medical benefits to more than 7.58 crore beneficiaries. During the year 2013-14, the Corporation has made an expenditure of Rs.4781.57 crores on the medical care.

Social Security For Unorganised Workers:
  Several schemes for social security of unorganized workers are being implemented by different Ministries.  Efforts are on to effect convergence of these schemes on the RSBY platform.

Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY)
RSBY, which provides cashless health insurance benefit of Rs.30,000 to families of the unorganized workers, is one of the schemes under the Unorganised Worker’s Social Security Act 2008.  Based on extensive consultations with State Governments, revamp of the Scheme has been undertaken in two phases.
(i)                Phase I: During this phase, the existing arrangements will be improved for immediate benefits to the insured population.  Efforts will be concentrated in developing selection and contracting arrangements with strict performance criteria for insurance companies, setting up a centralized multilingual call centre, contracting Third Party Agencies for field Audit, developing a robust and  responsive grievance redressal mechanism, rectification of existing glitches in the software and increased involvement of states through strengthened State Nodal Agencies. 
           As part of the financial inclusion scheme of the Govt. of India, it has been decided that all the beneficiaries of RSBY will be facilitated to open Jan Dhan accounts with the support of the State Level Bankers Committee and the District Lead Banks.  Efforts will also be made so that the RSBY beneficiaries who do not have an Aadhaar Card are facilitated to get one during the enrollment in RSBY. 
Status: Implemented in June 2014. Detailed Operational Guidelines issued with earmarking of clear role and responsibilities. Supplementary Agreement notified. Work on setting up call centre and Third Party Audit empanelment is in progress.

 (ii)     Phase II: The key initiatives of Phase-II are proposed to be: Centralized Procurement and issuance of cards, enrolment of beneficiaries and management of Kiosks by Consortium of State / Central PSUs, provision of wellness check for the card holders in a public health facility including PHC / CHC / ESIC hospitals, national level strengthening of RSBY team and creation of a comprehensive IT architecture covering all aspects of the programme.
Status: Selection of IT agency to develop the IT architecture is under progress. Committee of Principal Secretary / Secretary of the State Governments  has been constituted  to work out details of revamp based on the learnings of the State Governments. The Phase II is expected to be rolled out from February, 2015

Convergence of Social Security Schemes for unorganized workers  
In the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act 2008, ten schemes are mentioned. At present, beneficiaries have to fill up separate application forms and contact different agencies to obtain benefits under different social security schemes.  In order to facilitate convergence of major social security schemes, a pilot project is being undertaken to issue a Single RSBY Smart Card  for the three major social security schemes for unorganized workers to begin with namely,  Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana, Indira Gandhi Old Age Pension Scheme and Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana. The project involves setting up single points of contact for all the three schemes in 20 Districts on a Pilot basis. 
Status: The Districts have been selected and the preparation of the of Draft Project Report (DPR) is in the final phase.   
Efficient utilization of the Workers’ Welfare Funds

     The Ministry of Labour and Employment operates five workers welfare funds for Beedi workers, workers in iron ore manganese, chrome limestone and dolomite mines, mica workers and cine workers.  The State governments manage Building & Other Construction Workers Welfare Funds.  The Ministry will focus on improving welfare measures for workers from these funds through funding Skill Development, enrolment under RSBY along with seeding/opening of Jan Dhan Accounts and Aadhaar Numbers and annual health check-up.    
Status: The recommendations have already been accepted by the Central Advisory Committee of Beedi Workers’ Welfare funds. Other Central Advisory Committees are being convened shortly.

Status of Technical Education of Workforce
India has workforce of about 48.5 Crore.  The proportion of workforce who either received or were receiving vocational training (both formal and non-formal) was 10.1 % (Figure1). 
Figure 1: Proportion of workforce with vocational training 2009-10
Of these 10.1% only 25.6 % of the vocationally trained workforce had formal training (Figure 2 below).

Figure 2: Proportion of vocationally trained workforce with formal and non-formal training 2009-10
The distribution of the technically trained workforce according to the nature of their technical qualification is given in Figure 3 and the unemployment rates in Figure 4, which highlight the need for skilling at the shop floor level, both for employment and growth.

Figure 3: Proportion of vocationally trained workforce by level of education 2009-10
Figure 4: Unemployment Rates - Total, Youth (15-29) and Educated Youth (secondary and above) - 2011-12 (UPSS)
Training And Employment

1.       One of the flagship schemes for vocational training is the Craftsmen Training Scheme which is implemented through a network of more than 11300 Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs). They conduct courses of one or two year duration for 8th or 10 class pass outs, in NCVT (National Council for Vocational Training) approved 126 occupations of which five are for visually impaired. The ITIs have developed skilled craftsmen with the potential to directly contribute at the shop floor of our industries and, thereby, to the country’s overall GDP and progress.

2.       Given the burgeoning skill gap faced by the Indian economy, the Ministry has set up Mentor Councils (MCs) having representatives from thought leaders among various stakeholders viz. industry/academic/professional institutions, champion ITIs for each of the sectors and experts. 

          MCs are guiding the Ministry in responding proactively to the skill demands in the sector, through restructuring of courses, curriculum development, identification and development of good teaching and learning aids, infrastructure required, suggest ways of scaling up training of trainers with quality, making assessment systems more reliable, improving on the job training and placement of trainees, etc.

            On the recommendations of the Mentor Council, NCVT has revised 61 existing courses and introduced 21 new courses in the Craftsmen Training Scheme (CTS). These courses have an integral component of “Employability Skills”. The revamped curricula has been implemented from Aug 2014 session.

3.       Further, to inculcate a spirit of innovation and research, Incubation Centres are also being set up in different sectors to help budding entrepreneurs from ITIs, test their ideas and get mentoring and support of experts.  The Incubation Centres are housed in premier academic institutions of higher education in India such as the IITs.  The Incubation Centres will offer opportunities to the ITI graduates to work side by side with students from these institutions, expand their learning and vision, and create marketable business ideas and implement the same.  Chair positions are also being set up in these eminent institutions to conduct best practices research for improving the course structure, pedagogy, and overall quality of training delivery by the field institutions.

4.       There is sometimes a concern that NCVT courses are not responsive to the need of local industry.  To overcome this gap and to assist industry with qualified and trained workforce, the Government has started a scheme on “Demand responsive Vocational Training.  Any industry can sign an MoU with DGE&T to conduct training programme to meet specific skill requirement of the company.  Under the scheme approval of courses, examination and certification will be done by NCVT.  Industry would ensure minimum 80% employment.

Flexi-Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) under this scheme have been signed with Tata Group as a knowledge partner, FlipKart ,Gujarat  Industries Power Company Limited (GIPCL), LabourNet, Raymond and Cadila Pharmaceuticals.

5.       In order to promote excellence in vocational training, provided through ITIs, Ministry is introducing a new scheme for developing one existing Government ITI as a Model ITI in each State which should become a demand-responsive centre for local industries excelling in training.  They will also coordinate with Career Centres towards Industry Clusters – Career Centres – Vocational Training collaboration. The identified ITI situated in a prominent industrial cluster in the State will be provided funds for taking up several initiatives and reforms such as upgradation of facilities, introduction of industry relevant training, and improved industry interaction. States have been requested to identify the ITI.

6.       A Bill has been introduced in the Parliament after consultative process regarding amendment of Apprentices Act, 1961.  The amendments meet long pending demand of youth and industries, giving more flexibility and freedom, to both apprentices and the industry as follows:-

       I.                        Provides for prescribing number of apprentices to be engaged at establishment level instead of trade-wise.
    II.                        Flexibility to the industry in terms of 2.5% to 10% of the workforce in any trade(s) of their choice, open ended eligibility in terms of qualification of apprentices, flexi period of training, etc.
 III.                        Provides for employers to undertake new courses (optional trades) which are demand based.
IV.                        Provides for apprenticeship training to non-engineering graduate and diploma holders also.
   V.                        Provides for simplifying the procedure to registration of contract of apprenticeship training.
VI.                        Inspections only with permission of Central and State Apprenticeship Adviser.

Status:        Amendment Bill has been passed in Lok Sabha.

The Government has proposed a Scheme for sharing of 50% of stipend of apprentices for undergoing apprenticeship training in MSMEs having turnover less than Rs.100 crore and registered under MSMED Act.  Main objective of the scheme is to bring a large number of MSMEs. Stipend is being enhanced from Rs.2100/- per month to about Rs.4200/- per month.

7.       In view of the large workforce having informally learnt skills working in construction sector, Ministry has launched a scheme of “Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) of Construction Workers” with involvement of industry and expert institutions. This is proposed to be funded by BOCW Cess. RPL will provide gap training and lead to NCVT Certification.

8.       Another important initiative is running additional shifts in urban ITIs for training of existing workforce in several trades. A special window has been created in Skill Development Initiative Scheme to give focus to this target group.
Career Centres
The Government has decided to transform the Employment Exchanges to Career Centres which shall connect local youth and other job-seekers with  job opportunities through counselling and mapping jobs with skill requirements.  National Career Service Portal will provide information about available career options, training courses, apprentice seats, job opportunities etc., and also resources for efficient functioning of Career Centres. The Career Centres would be the pivotal outreach and counselling interface of the National Career Service for teeming millions of aspiring youth from rural, semi urban areas as well as from disadvantaged sections of the society. These Centres would be staffed by motivated young professionals, enabled with necessary tools and infrastructure for effectively and continuously assessing demand of skills in labour markets, guiding youth visiting the Centres and by outreach to schools/colleges about, various training institutions, on-the-job training, job opportunities, etc., according to their aptitude and potential. These Centres would connect youth and other job seekers with jobs through portal, job fairs and other possible interface with employees such as campus placements.  Last mile employability modules are also proposed to be offered.

The Ministry has circulated the guidelines to States for establishing the Career Centres and capacity building of the Employment Exchange officers has also commenced from 25th August, 2014.

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