Social Security Benefits for Unorganised Workers

Social Security Benefits is one of the dynamic concepts of the modern age which influences social as well as economic policy. Social Security stands for policies, plans and measures to provide protection, relief and security against various risks to which a member of the community is often exposed in his life due to sickness, disablement, old age, unemployment, economic hardship, accidental or occupational diseases caused due to polluted environment.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines unorganised workers as those who are not covered by any form of social security, either through their own contributions or their employers' contributions. They often work in the informal economy, where employment is not regulated, and workers do not have access to any form of protection or social security benefits.

Need of Social Security Benefits

The working population of India has seen increased suffering as a result of an outbreak of Covid-19. It was discovered that more than 90% of Indians work in the unorganized sector and are not eligible for social security or minimum wages despite making up about 60% of the country's GDP. The unorganised workers typically operate in sporadic, seasonal, and casual jobs that are frequently unregulated. Social security is a crucial part of a worker's, families, and community's overall well-being.

Before the implementation of social security programs in India, the unorganized sector faced several problems related to −

  • Income insecurity

  • Lack of access to basic healthcare

  • Social vulnerability

  • Low and unpredictable wages

  • Social protection.

Social security programs were implemented in the unorganized sector to address these issues and provide a safety net for workers in this sector. These programs provide financial assistance, healthcare benefits, and social protection to workers in the unorganized sector, helping to reduce poverty and inequality and improve their overall well-being.

Legalisation of Social Security

The Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008 was enacted by the Indian government to provide social security benefits to workers in the unorganized sector. The Act was enforced on 16th May 2009, and it aims to provide social security benefits to workers in the unorganized sector such as street vendors, construction workers, domestic workers, agricultural workers, and many others.

The Act establishes a national social security board to oversee the implementation of social security schemes for unorganized workers. The board consists of representatives from the central and state governments, employers, workers, and experts in the field of social security.

The Act seeks to address this gap by providing social security benefits to workers in the unorganized sector. It provides for the following social security benefits to unorganized workers −

  • Life and disability cover − The Act provides for life and disability cover for unorganized workers, which includes a lump sum payment in case of death or disability due to an accident.

  • Health and maternity benefits − The Act provides for health and maternity benefits to unorganized workers, including medical treatment and hospitalization expenses for themselves and their family members.

  • Old age protection − The Act provides for a pension to unorganized workers who are above the age of 60 years.

  • Education for children − The Act provides for the education of children of unorganized workers up to a certain age.

  • Funeral expenses − The Act provides for funeral expenses to the family of unorganized workers in case of death

Labour Codes

In order to codify the country's various labour regulations, the Parliament recently passed four labour codes on industrial relations, social security, occupational safety, health, and working conditions and the wage code passed in 2019.

Code on Wages, 2019

It aims to simplify and rationalize the complex wage-related laws in India and provide universal minimum wages to all workers. The code applies to all employees across all industries, including the organized and unorganized sectors. The code mandates that wages need to be paid in a timely and transparent manner, it sets up mechanisms for compliance and enforcement of its provisions and fixation of minimum and maximum bonus payments.

Code on Industrial Relations, 2020

It consolidates and amends the laws relating to industrial relations, trade unions, and the settlement of industrial disputes and rationalizes the complex labour laws in India and promotes harmonious industrial relations between employers and employees.

Code on Social Security, 2020

It provides universal social security coverage to all workers in India, including those in the unorganized sector. It brings together various existing social security laws and schemes, such as the Employees' Provident Fund and the Employees' State Insurance Act, and provides a framework for the establishment of new social security schemes.

Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions, 2020

It is a comprehensive labour law in India that consolidates and amends the laws relating to occupational safety, health, and working conditions of workers. It ensures safe and healthy working conditions for all workers in all sectors, including the organized and unorganized sectors.


The social security benefits provided to unorganized workers in India have come a long way from a lack of protection to a comprehensive set of schemes and programs. The Unorganized Workers' Social Security Act, 2008 and subsequent codes on social security have helped in providing a safety net to millions of unorganized workers in the country. These benefits include health insurance, life insurance, maternity benefits, disability benefits, old age pensions, and more.

The introduction of these benefits has helped in reducing poverty, improving healthcare, and enhancing the overall well-being of unorganized workers. These benefits also address the issue of income insecurity and provide a sense of dignity to the workers.

However, despite the existence of these schemes and programs, there are still challenges that need to be addressed. There is a need for effective implementation and monitoring of these schemes to ensure that benefits reach the intended beneficiaries. There is also a need to increase the coverage of these schemes to include more unorganized workers who are currently outside the purview of social security benefits.

Overall, the social security benefits provided to unorganized workers in India are a significant step towards ensuring the welfare of the working class in the country. However, continued efforts are required to address the remaining gaps and ensure that the benefits reach the intended beneficiaries.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1 . How are these social security benefits funded in India?

Ans. The social security benefits provided to unorganized workers in India are funded through a combination of government contributions and contributions from workers and employers.

Q2. What is the process for enrolling for social security benefits as an unorganized worker in India?

Ans. Unorganized workers can enrol for social security benefits through the various schemes and programs run by the government, such as the National Health Protection Scheme, National Pension Scheme, and others.

Q3. What are some of the challenges faced in the implementation of social security programs for unorganized workers in India?

Ans. Some of the challenges faced in the implementation of social security programs for unorganized workers in India include limited awareness among workers about these programs, inadequate resources and infrastructure to effectively implement the programs, and challenges in identifying and reaching out to eligible beneficiaries in remote or hard-to-reach areas.

Updated on: 10-May-2023


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