ILO meet: Centre’s labour policies draw flak from workers’ groups

India’s new labour codes violate tripartite agreements and give too much power to employers, said Felix Anthony, workers’ representative in the Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting of the ILO

Updated - December 06, 2022 08:28 pm IST

Published - December 06, 2022 05:34 pm IST - SINGAPORE

Intervening in a discussion on the report tabled by ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo, Minister of State for Labour Rameswar Teli said that India has the largest youth population in the world and the country is observing a technological and entrepreneurial boom with start-ups and small businesses mushrooming across the country. 

Intervening in a discussion on the report tabled by ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo, Minister of State for Labour Rameswar Teli said that India has the largest youth population in the world and the country is observing a technological and entrepreneurial boom with start-ups and small businesses mushrooming across the country.  | Photo Credit: AFP

International workers’ groups criticised the Centre’s labour policies, including four new labour codes, at the 17th Asia and the Pacific Regional Meeting (APRM) of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) which began in Singapore on Tuesday.

India’s new labour codes violate the tripartite agreements — between workers, employers and the government — and give a free hand to employers, alleged Felix Anthony, workers’ representative in the APRM and senior leaders of the International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC). Speaking at a session of the APRM, Mr. Anthony added that trade unions in India have been opposing such policies.

The power of inspection has been left with employers through the new codes, and it will threaten the tripartite system in the country, he said, adding that the workers are asking for a new social contract. “A contract with governments and employers and particularly at the national level. A contract which is based on the availability of decent jobs for all; respect of rights for all; fair wages including minimum wage; adequate and easily available social protection; respect for equality; inclusiveness and no forms of any discrimination,” said Mr. Anthony.

Hiro Matsui, the vice president of the International Organisation of Employers’ Asia chapter, said that declining productivity growth has a negative impact on workers, on the sustainability of enterprises — especially micro, small and medium-sized enterprises — on economies, and on communities. “Enhancing productivity will be critical to economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work. Recognising persisting skills challenges and that effective and demand-driven skills development and lifelong learning benefit governments, employers and workers by advancing and promoting employability, sustainable development, productivity growth and economic prosperity. Digital skills, core skills, entrepreneurial skills and soft skills should be better harnessed,” he added.

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Intervening in a discussion on the report tabled by ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo, Minister of State for Labour Rameswar Teli said that India has the largest youth population in the world and the country is observing a technological and entrepreneurial boom with start-ups and small businesses mushrooming across the country. He said that 90% of the workforce belongs to the unorganised sector and there are persistent challenges of low-paid jobs and poor working conditions. “For ensuring the development of all, measures, like identifying workers in the unorganised sector and prioritising their needs through platforms like the E-Shram portal and extending health coverage through ESIC, are measures to extend universal social security that is leading to reduction in inequality. Till date, about 29 crore unorganised sector workers have been registered on the E-Shram portal in our country,” Mr. Teli said.

Earlier, in her inaugural address, Singapore president Halimah Yacob said that lower-wage workers everywhere are disproportionately affected by economic upheavals and high inflation. She added that her government’s approach in helping lower-wage workers is through the Progressive Wage Model. “This approach has helped to raise real income at the 20th percentile of full-time employed residents by 2.7% per annum from 2016 to 2021, compared to the median income growth of 2.1% per annum, helping to reduce the income gap,” Ms. Yacob said.

She added that the approach provides a roadmap to raise lower-wage workers’ wages at a sustainable pace, avoiding job losses, which could hurt workers’ livelihoods. “This is done by raising wages in tandem with productivity growth achieved through upskilling workers and transforming businesses. By 2023, the Progressive Wage Model will be expanded to cover more than 8 in 10 full-time lower-wage workers,” the Singapore president said.

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