Constitutional and legal framework for protection of migrant labour in an unorganized sector in India

Aug 13, 2020


Article 14 of the Indian constitution declares that ‘the State shall not deny to  any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India’. That is, the article guarantees equality of all before law, no rich or poor, no king or courts men, no inferior or superior; every individual is equal and thus deserves to be awarded equal rights and duties as well.

Speaking of the migrant labours, the Indian labour legislation have always been a matter of entanglement in the eyes of the constitution makers since the pre-existing British colonial times. Although, its prominence have existed since the times have known, yet the labour legislation grew with the growth of industrialization in the 18th century. Indian constitution provides an overarching groundwork for regulation of milieu of work as protection and promotion of livelihood of migrant labour under chapter III (fundamental rights) and chapter IV (directive principles of state policy).

Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008

Pursuant to Section 2(n) of the 'Unorganised Workers' Social Security Act, 2008, 'Wage Workers' means a individual working for remuneration in an unorganised sector, directly by the employer or by any contractor, irrespective of the place of employment, whether exclusively for one employer or for one or more employers, whether in cash or in kind, whether as a domestic worker or as a temporary or casual worker.

Now let's see the significance of the term "unorganised employees."

Section 2(m) of the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008 provides that 'unorganised workers' means home-based workers, self-employed workers or wage-earners in the unorganised sector and includes workers in the organized sector who are not covered by any of the Acts referred to in Schedule II of this Act.

As the definition of unorganized workers includes wage-workers and wage-workers includes migrant employees, this act also applies to immigrant workers. 

Section 3 of this Act deals with the social security of unorganized employees. The scheme is framed in the following way: 

The central government must from time to time establish and advise successful welfare schemes for unorganized employees on matters relating to —

  1. Life and disability provisions
  2. Health benefits and maternity benefits
  3. Old age protection and
  4. Some other benefit that may be decided by the Central Government

The schemes referred to in Schedule 1 of this Act shall be considered to be welfare schemes mentioned in subsection (1).

By notification, the Central Government may amend the annexed Schedules of this Act.

The Government of the State can from time to time devise and notify unorganised employees about appropriate welfare schemes, including schemes relating to-

  1. Provident Fund
  2. Employ injury benefit
  3. Housing
  4. Educational programs for children
  5. Upgrading skills of workers
  6. Funeral support
  7. Old-age homes

 The schemes included in Schedule 1 of the Act for the benefit of unorganized workers are :

  1. Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS)
  2. Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY)
  3. Janashree Bima Yojana (JBY)
  4. Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY)
  5. National Scheme for Welfare of Fishermen and Training and Extension