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Daily Editorials

E-­Shram Needs Some Hard Work to Get Going


  • On August 26, 2021, the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MOLE) launched the E­-Shram, the web portal for creating a National Data­ base of Unorganized Workers (NDUW), which will be seeded with Aadhaar.

About e-Shram Portal:

  • It is a national portal will help build a comprehensive National Database of Unorganised Workers (NDUW) in the country.

  • It seeks to register an estimated 398­400 million un­organised workers and to issue an E­Shram card.

  • The categories of unorganised workers that will be covered includes

    • Construction workers

    • Migrant workers

    • Gig and platform workers

    • Street vendors

    • Domestic workers

    • Agriculture workers

    • Other unorganised workers

  • The workers will be issued an e-Shram card containing a 12-digit unique number, which, going ahead, will help in including them in social security schemes.

  • If a worker is registered on the e-shram portal and meets with an accident, he will be eligible for

    • Rs 2.0 Lakh on death or permanent disability

    • Rs 1.0 lakh on partial disability.

  • Government in States/UTs will conduct registration of unorganised workers across the country.

  • Registration under the e-SHRAM portal is totally free and workers do not have to pay anything for his or her registration at Common Service Centres (CSCs) or anywhere.

See the source image

Major challenges:

A long process:

  • Given the gigantic nature of registering each worker, it will be a long­drawn process.

  • It is natural that in the initial stages, the pace of registrations will be slower; so far, 0.61 million workers have been registered.

  • Considering the estimated 380 million workers as the universe of registration — debatable as the novel coronavirus pandemic has pushed lakhs of workers in to informality and the estimate also depends on the assumptions used for estimation — 6.33 million workers have to be registered for completion of registration in 60 days, and 4.2 million workers for 90 days.

  • The Government has not mentioned a gestation period to assess its strategy and eficiency.

  • Workers stand to gain by registration in the medium to long run.

  • But the instant benefit of accident insurance upto Rs 0.2 million to registered workers is surely not an attractive carrot.

  • The main point of attraction is the benefits they stand to gain during normal and crisis­ridden periods such as the novel coronavirus pandemic now which the Government needs to disseminate properly.

Data security:

  • One of the vital concerns of e­portals is data security, including its potential abuse especially when it is a mega ­sized database.

  • The central government would have to share data with State governments whose data security capacities vary.

  • There are also media reports pointing out the absence of a national architecture relating to data security.

  • There are several issues concerning the eligibility of persons to register as well as the defnitional issues. 

  • By excluding workers covered by EPF and ESI, lakhs of contract and fixed-­term contract workers will be excluded from the universe of UW. 

  • Under the Social Security Code (SSC), hazardous establishments employing even a single worker will have to be covered under the ESI, which means these workers also will be excluded.

  • The NDUW excludes millions of workers aged over 59 from its ambit, which constitutes age discrimination.

  • Given the frugal or no social security for them, their exclusion will hurt their welfare.

  • As such, SSC is exclusionary as ESC and EPF benefits will be applicable only to those employed in establishments employing 10 or 20 workers, respectively.

  • Thresholds in labour laws segment the labour market. 

  • Many workers will not have an Aadhaar-­seeded mobile or even a smartphone. 

  • Aadhaar­-seeding is a controversial issue with political overtones, especially in the North-­eastern regions.

  • But it is necessary and the Government is right in insisting on it. 

  • The extent of de?nitional and systemic exclusions is vast and there may be other categories of exclusion due to possible procedural deficits.

Complex identities:

  • The very identity of unorganised workers presents problems thanks to its complexity and ever­changing identities.

  • Many are circular migrant workers and they quickly, even unpredictably, move from one trade to another.

  • Many others perform formal and informal work as some during non­-office hours may belong to the gig economy.

    • For example as an Uber taxi or a Swiggy employee.

  • They straddle formal and informal sectors.

  • The nuances of the unorganised workers’ identity are so complex that one wonders whether the mechanical and assumptions­-based portal registration will be able to capture the complexities and dynamics involved regarding them.

  • Even though MOLE has included gig workers in this process, it is legally unclear whether the gig/platform worker can be classified first as a worker at all (the other three Labour Codes do not include these workers), and second as organised or unorganised workers — the definition of an “unorganised worker” in the Social Security Code does not specifically include them, unless they are declared ‘self-­employed’ or ‘wage workers’.

  • In fact, the NCO family code does not specifically include ‘gig/platform worker’ even though they may be registered under several categories of ‘drivers’ which will hide their unique identity.

Other impediments:

  • The central government will have to depend on the State governments for this project to be successful.

  • The main trouble points arise at the regional level for two primary reasons. 

  • It has been reported that in some States such as Maharashtra, the server was down for a few days. 

  • The incentive for multiple attempts on the part of registering workers will be weak.

  • The helping stakeholders must make suitable interventions in these cases.

  • In many States, the social dialogue with the stakeholders especially is rather weak or non­existent. 

Way forward:

  • The success of the project depends on the 

    • Involvement of a variety of stakeholders apart from trade unions, 

    • Massive and innovative dissemination exercises involving multiple media outlets of various languages.

    • The holding of camps on demand by the stakeholders and on their own by the Government, Efficiency of the resolution of grievance redress mechanisms

    • Micro­level operations

  • There is also the concern of corruption as middle-­service agencies such as Internet providers might charge exorbitant charges to register and print the E­-Shram cards. Therefore, the involvement of surveillance agencies is crucial.

  • More importantly, the Government must publish statistics at the national and the regional levels of the registrations to assess the registration system’s effciency.


  • E­-Shram is a vital system to provide hitherto invisible workers much-­needed visibility. 

  • It will provide the Labour Market Citizenship Document to them. 

  • Registrations cannot be a source of exclusion of a person from receiving social assistance and benefits.

Source: The Hindu