With the Standing Committee on Labour finalising its recommendations for ‘The Code on Wages Bill, 2017’, it could turn out to be the first code to be enacted among the four codes that were proposed by the NDA government when it took charge in 2014. The Bill, which was introduced in Lok Sabha in August last year, proposes a national level minimum wage that will be applicable to all employments in organised and unorganised sectors.
Following these recommendations by the Standing Committee, the Ministry of Labour and Employment is now expected to incorporate the changes and send it to the Union Cabinet for its approval, following which the Bill will be considered for passage by the Parliament.
The rest three proposed codes, Code on Industrial Relations, Code on Social Security & Welfare and Code on Occupational Safety Health & Working Conditions, are still in various stages of consultations though the Ministry of Labour and Employment is pushing passage of the second code, Code on Industrial Relations, in the run-up to the general elections.
The Ministry of Labour and Employment on December 13 had said that the draft Cabinet note along with the Code on Industrial Relations Bill, 2018 has been sent to Cabinet Secretariat on November 5 for consideration, while draft cabinet notes for the other two codes on ‘Social Security & Welfare’ and ‘Occupational Safety Health & Working Conditions’ have been sent for inter-ministerial consultations. In line with the recommendations of the Second National Commission on Labour, the ministry had drafted four labour codes, industrial relations, wages, social security and welfare and occupational safety, health and working conditions by amalgamating, simplifying and rationalising the relevant provisions of the existing 44 central labour laws.
The codification of labour laws has been a long drawn process given that the present NDA government had started work towards the end of its first year in 2014. In his independence day speech in August 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken about codification of labour laws into four codes. “Where will a poor labourer look for his thing of interest in the pile-up of different types of 44 legislations meant for our labourers? We have brought about a change therein. By incorporating these 44 legislations into four codes of conduct, the poorest of the poor and even an illiterate labourer can know about his or her interest, we have emphasized this scheme,” Modi had said.
On the jobs front, the government started releasing enrollment data for Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) as an indicator for formalisation of jobs in the country but discontinued the Quarterly Employment Survey released by the Labour Bureau.
The EPFO enrollment numbers along with data of Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Scheme, National Pension System (NPS), General Provident Fund (GPF) were the basis for a study titled, Towards a Payroll Reporting in India by Soumya Kanti Ghosh and Pulok Ghosh in January this year, which had estimated that around 70 lakh jobs might be created in 2017-18. On the basis of EPFO data, the study had estimated that 36.8 lakh new subscribers in the age band 18-25 years had enrolled during April-November 2017 and extrapolating it for the full year, they had estimated that 55.2 lakh new subscribers would be enrolled in 2017-18. In his Budget speech for 2018-19, then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had cited the study saying, “An independent study conducted recently has shown that 70 lakh formal jobs will be created this year.”
The EPFO enrollment numbers, however, underwent various revisions with many economists flagging several issues with the data being seen as measure for job creation. The EPFO itself in the footnote of the data release said that the data for most recent months are provisional as updation of employees records is a continuous process and are likely to be updated in subsequent months. As per the latest data, the numbers for September 2017-March 2018 have been revised down by 32.7 per cent to 26.47 lakh from 39.35 lakh since its first release in May this year.
The field work for sixth Annual Employment-Unemployment Survey has been conducted but the final report has not been released so far. The findings of a new survey being conducted by NSSO, Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), were expected by December but the survey is yet to be released. PLFS is a continuous/regular survey for generating estimates of various labour force indicators on quarterly basis for urban areas and annual basis for both rural and urban areas, at State/UT and all-India level and the fieldwork for this survey had commenced on April 1, 2017.