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This article is written by Mishu Jain of 2nd Semester of B.A.LLB of Manipal University Jaipur School of Law, an intern under Legal Vidhiya


Unorganized workers describes workers who, because of various limitations such as the sporadic nature of their employment, have not been able to organize themselves in pursuit of their common interests like employment, illiteracy and ignorance, tiny and dispersed company sizes, etc. The workers in the unorganized sector in India constitute about ninety-three percent of the total workforces of the country. Only approximately 7% of Indian workers are eligible for the majority of social security benefits; the other unorganized workers are either not adequately covered or, if they are, the laws and policies are frequently not put into practice. The government is required by international agreements and constitutional mandates to offer social security benefits to every citizen.

The objective of this article is to provide an overview of the social security programs and policies that India’s unorganized labor sector currently has access to. An effort has been made to focus on the ideas of unorganized labor and social security. In this context, numerous laws and court plans and actions made at the federal and state levels have been examined.


social security, unorganized, workers, laws and policies, workforce, agreements, social benefits.


The Indian labor market has always been primarily informal and remains so now. Approximately 90% of workers in India’s labor market had informal employment throughout the 2018–19 year. These workers are not covered at all or only insufficiently by the labor laws, social security programs, and other employment benefits that are now in place. Many of these laborers are employed in hazardous and exploitative conditions as a result of a lack of government monitoring.

Social security should be able to protect everyone, regardless of caste, creed, sexual orientation, etc. The social security concept has evolved from a rights-based to a charity-based approach.

National constitutions and international agreements both firmly declare and recognize that having access to social security is the fundamental right of humans.

The International Labor Organization (hereafter I.L.O.) has outlined the protective form of social security in the current environment of the unorganized sector in its Convention No. 102, which lists nine hazards or Unorganized or informal workers must be protected against the following primary risks, which might result in a stoppage or a significant decrease in pay: 1) Illness 2)Maternity 3)Workplace Injuries 4)Unemployment 5)Invalidity 6)Old Age 7)Death  8)The necessity of long-term healthcare and 9) The requirement of helping families with children. This interpretation of I.L.O. has been referred to as the protective form of social security since it restricts the benefits of the program to maintaining one’s income against reduction or loss.

Since unorganized workers are essential for the society, they require special consideration. The majority of socially and economically disadvantaged people work in informal or unorganized sector. This sector was recognized as important in eyes of government which led to introduction of many schemes and programs to aid unorganized labourers. Many additionally social security benefits are offered to workers by their industrial companies to encourage their active participation towards industry’s prosperity.


Social security as a concept has changed over time. It was initially mentioned in the 1942 Beveridge Committee Report, where it was defined as “freedom of want,” because the only things it offered were full health care, children’s allowances, and employment maintenance (Majumdar & Borbora, 2013).

The International Labour Organization (ILO) subsequently put forth a more complex interpretation of social security in 1952, viewing it as a safeguard against both social and economic hardship. These included safeguards against sudden drops or cessations of income due to illness, childbirth, work-related injuries, lack of employment, disability, old age, and health care (ILO, 1952).

Social security gives workers certainty and is crucial for their well-being. Social security policies benefit workers in many ways, including helping them advance in their careers, raising industrial productivity levels, and fostering a sense of security among them. To some extent, it was also beneficial for ending poverty. Social security although is not a constitutional fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution, it is a fundamental human right.

The ILO’s social security strategy has drawn criticism for drawing solely from developed nations’ experiences. Generally speaking, developing nations had (and still have) a far bigger unorganized sector, greater rates of poverty, limited industrialization, and other limitations. A working group on Social Security was established by the Planning Commission during the 12th Five Year Plan process. Of the 45.9 crores workers in India, 94% work in the unorganized sector, with the remaining 6% in the organized sector.

 They demand a more expansive understanding of social security. According to Jean Drèze and Amartya Sen, social security policies in developing nations should be viewed more broadly as pro-poor initiatives carried out by the government (Sen & Drèze, 1989). Therefore, social security in developing nations like India is best understood as pro-poor policies that can be seeking to increase income through various programs designed to provide protection from specific external shocks.


 India passed the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008. The government has approved the unorganized sector’s workers social security bill in the Lok Sabha on December 17, 2008, in spite of resistance from civil society, trade unions, and worker organizations, To provide social security to the unorganized sector.

 It allows for the financing of central government initiatives as well as the formulation of policies by the federal and state governments. In order to accomplish its goal, a provision has been made for the establishment of a workers’ facilitation center and the financing of State Government Schemes for district administration record keeping. Lastly, it gives the federal and state governments the authority to create regulations. Any unorganzied sector worker above the age of 14 is entitled to register and receive a smart identity card.

In the era of liberalization, globalization, and privatization the country has been a drastic change in the business environment and nature of employment. These changes created many issues in social security measures. In this regard, the problem of social security to the sector of unorganised workers attracts more attention in the country. The government enacted much social security legislation for the welfare of unorganised workers also formulated many schemes. Unorganised Workers Social Security Act 2008 is one of the significant activities which are exclusively for the protection of unorganised workers. The mechanism under the Act provides a three-tier system for the implementation of the law.


The central Government established the National Social Security Board. The Union Minister for Labor and Employment serves as its chairperson. As per section 5 (2) of the unorganised workers social security act, 2008[2], The Union Government nominates members, who include seven representatives of unorganized sector employers and workers, a distinguished member of civil society, two members from the House of People, one member from the Rajya Sabha, and five members each representing Ministries from the Central and State Governments.

As per section 5 (8) of the unorganised workers social security act, 2008[3], The following tasks are carried out by the national board, as follows.

1. They recommend suitable schemes for unorganized workers to the Union Government.

2. Offer advice to the Union Government on issues pertaining to the act’s administration.

3. To keep an eye on the social security programs designed for unorganized laborers?

4. Examine the registration and provide the unorganized workers with identity cards.

5. Examine the records of the State Government’s actions at the state level.

6. Examine how the funds were used for the various initiatives.

7. perform other functions delegated from time to time by central government.


As per section 3 (1), the central government is encouraged to provide social security benefits to unorganised workers by formulating schemes on the matters like life and disability cover; health and maternity benefits;  old age protection; and  any other benefit as may be determined by the Central Government[4].

Life and Disability

Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (PMJJBY) and Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY) offer life and disability coverage.

Individuals between the ages of 18 and 50 who have a bank or post office account and consent to participate in or allow auto debit are eligible for PMJJBY. Under this plan, risk coverage is for Rs. 2.00 lakh in the event that the insured passes away for whatever reason. An yearly premium of Rs. 436 will be automatically deducted from the subscriber’s bank or post office account.

The Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY) is open to everyone between the ages of 18 and 70 who has a bank or post office account and consents to participate in or enable auto debit. The scheme provides risk coverage of Rs. 2.00 lakh in the event of accidental death or total permanent disability, and Rs. 1.00 lakh in the event of partial permanent disability; when caused by an accident; the premium is Rs. 20 per year and is to be deducted through “auto-debit” from the account holder’s bank or post office account.

Health and Maternity

Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) provides insurance for health and maternity benefits based on deprivation and occupation. It offers health insurance coverage for hospital stays linked to secondary and tertiary treatment up to Rs. 5.00 lakhs per family. The scheme allows States and Union Territories the freedom to manage their own health insurance programs in conjunction with AB-PMJAY. The AB-PMJAY states and union territories have extended the program’s coverage to encompass 13.13 crore families, or 65 crore individuals.

Old age Protection

The Government of India announced the Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-dhan Yojana (PM-SYM) pension system in 2019 to safeguard unorganized sector workers from the effects of old age. Under this scheme, unorganized workers will receive a monthly pension of Rs. 3000/-after reaching the age of 60. The PM-SYM Scheme is open to workers in the 18–40 age range whose monthly income is Rs. 15000 or less and who are not government-funded members of EPFO, ESIC, or NPS. The beneficiary of this system must pay a 50% monthly contribution, and the Central Government will match that amount. As part of the system, LIC, the fund manager, receives funding for the government’s share.


Owing to improper legislative implementation, the judiciary has occasionally stepped up to defend the rights of unorganized laborers. In fact, unorganized laborers continue to be exempt from social security regulations. The Indian judiciary was crucial to the formation of contemporary jurisprudence and made a substantial contribution to safeguarding the rights of the underprivileged segments of society, as evidenced by a number of rulings.

In the case of Delhi Jal Board v. National Campaign For Dignity and Rights of Sewerage and Allied Workers[5], The legislators and those tasked with putting laws enacted for the welfare of unorganized workers into effect have not established suitable mechanisms for the protection of workers who are employed by or through contractors to whom the state and its agencies outsource services meant to benefit the public at large. These workers are inherently dangerous, and the laws have not provided for the payment of reasonable compensation in the event of a death. As a result, the judiciary is actively engaged in implementing social security assistance programs, protecting the rights of unorganized workers, and expanding the benefits of various labor welfare laws.

In the Historic M.C. Mehta v. State of Tamil Nadu[6] Case

The government was ordered by the Indian Supreme Court to conduct a survey and to end the use of child labor in the matchstick and cracker factories. Additionally, the court ordered that the subcontractors that the minimum wage should be paid directly in accordance with the Minimum Wages Act and section 21 of the Contract Labor Act of 1970 should be followed.


Unorganized workers contribute significantly to the efficiency and seamless operation of the country’s economy, but they do not fairly share in the rewards.  Future laws and policies pertaining to unorganized workers must take into account the difficulties and obstacles to a living experienced by those employed in the informal and unorganized sectors. The Unorganized Social insurance Act, 2008 was passed by the Indian government as a first step toward giving unorganized workers who operate in unorganized sectors basic social insurance. Following this Act, the Indian government has put in place a number of programs.

 Effective expansion of the social security system intended for informal laborers is required in isolated locations and areas distant from administrative hubs. In order to give people general security in their homes and places of employment, we must respect social security as a system. It must contain the steps intended to assure that every citizen has access to the necessities of life; The goal must be to establish conditions in which each individual may maintain a reasonable level of living that is in line with social norms.


  1. Ijcrt.org, https://ijcrt.org/papers/IJCRT21A6079.pdf, last accessed on 30 January 2024
  2. Papers.ssrn.com, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1968206, last accessed on 30 January 2024
  3. Accountabilityindia.in, https://accountabilityindia.in/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Brief_SocialSecurity_InformalWorkers_8Jan2021.pdf, last accessed on 29 January 2024
  4. Vikaspedia.in, https://vikaspedia.in/social-welfare/social-security/unorganised-workers%E2%80%99-social-security, last accessed on 30 January 2024
  5. Pib.gov.in, https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1986238#:~:text=The%20health%20and%20maternity%20benefits,and%20tertiary%20care%20related%20hospitalization., last accessed on 30 January 2024
  6. Research gate, file:///C:/Users/HP/Downloads/SocialSecurityforUnorganizedWorkersinIndia.pdf, last accessed on 30 January 2024.

[1] The unorganized workers social security act, 2008, no. 33, act of the parliament, 2008( India)

[2] The unorganised workers social security act, 2008, section 5(2), no.33, act of the parliament, 2008 (India)

[3] The unorganised workers social security act, 2008, section 5(8), no.33, act of the parliament, 2008 (India)

[4] India code.in, https://www.indiacode.nic.in/bitstream/123456789/2100/1/A2008-33.pdf.

[5] Delhi jal board vs national campaign for dignity and rights of sewage and allied workers, 181 (2011) DLT 77 (SC)

[6] MC Mehta v state of Tamil nadu, (1996) 6 SCC 756

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