New Delhi: Nearly half of the 3 crore registrations on e-Shram, India’s first-ever national database of unorganised workers, since its launch in August are women, according to data available on the portal and analysed by the Labour Bureau.
Till 8 October, a total of 3 crore informal sector workers have registered on the portal and of them, 48.84 per cent are female while 51.16 per cent are male. It is estimated that India’s informal sector workforce is over 38 crore.
The e-Shram portal, which was launched on 26 August by the labour ministry, intends to capture details of unorganised sector workers including migrant workers such as their present status, skill type, family details, address, current location in case of migrant workers and their movement from formal to the informal sector in a consolidated and comprehensive form.
The setting up of the national database was necessitated following the migrant workers crisis in the aftermath of the first wave of Covid pandemic, which saw thousands of informal sector workers travelling back to their native places after losing their livelihood because of the nationwide lockdown.
The Narendra Modi government announced a slew of welfare schemes including free ration and transfer of cash for the workers. But many of those hit hardest were deprived of the benefits as the government did not have details about their whereabouts or the data to identify the actual number of migrant workers in the country.
However, of the total number of registrations that have happened since the portal was operationalised, just 2.77 per cent are migrant workers. More than half (1.67 crore) of those who have registered are agriculture sector workers followed by construction workers (42 lakh) and domestic and household workers (22 lakh).
Meanwhile, the top five states from where the maximum number of registrations have taken place so far are Odisha (73 lakh), West Bengal (54 lakh), Bihar (50 lakh), Uttar Pradesh (44 lakh) and Madhya Pradesh (12.9 lakh).
“Though these are initial days, the pace of registration needs to be scaled up manifold. The low number of registration by migrant workers could be an indication of the huge information gap regarding the portal. The government should disseminate information at a massive scale. Why can’t the Prime Minister take up the important issue of registration of unorganised sector workers in his Mann Ki Baat?” said K.R. Shyam Sunder, labour economist.
However, Sunder, who is also a professor of human resources management at Xavier School of Management (XLRI) in Jamshedpur, said the trend of close to half of women workers registering to the portal was “encouraging.”
“It can be partially attributed to organisations like SEWA (Self-Employed Women’s Association), which has been on the forefront in demanding adequate legal framework for unorganised workers in general and women in particular,” he told ThePrint.
55% registered workers don’t have Aadhaar-linked bank accounts
The data available at the e-Shram portal also shows that of the approximately 3 crore workers who have registered, 55.77 per cent do not have bank accounts linked to Aadhaar.
Aadhaar authentication is mandatory before cash under various government schemes targeting the poor can be transferred to a beneficiary’s account.
So far, bank accounts of 44.23 per cent workers who have registered at the portal are linked to Aadhaar. In total, 66.49 per cent of workers have provided details of their bank accounts.
Labour ministry officials, who did not want to be named, told ThePrint that these are initial days and as awareness grows and people get to know the benefits of registration, they will ensure their bank accounts are linked to Aadhaar.
But Sunder said the lack of bank accounts linked to Aadhaar is a “commentary on the inadequacy of Aadhaar coverage.”
“Basically it means that if bank accounts of 55 per cent of the 3 crore workers are not linked to Aadhaar, their registration is of no use. How will the government transfer cash to the beneficiaries account?” Sunder said.
The portal will have details of the different social sector and welfare schemes run by the central and state governments targeting those in the unorganised sector. Eventually, once the registration process picks pace, the government will link various welfare schemes with the portal and a worker will be able to avail benefits of the schemes by registering and applying online.
In all, 91.5 per cent of the workers who have registered so far have income below Rs 10,000.
43% OBC, 22.9% SC workers have registered
The workers who have registered on the portal also belong to different social categories, with 43 per cent of them from Other Backward Classes (OBCs). While 22.93 per cent workers belong to Scheduled Caste, 6.83 per cent are Scheduled Tribes and 27 per cent belong to the General category.
Among different age groups, 62 per cent workers are from the 18-40 age bracket followed by 21.99 per cent in the 40-50 age group.
The labour ministry, which runs the portal, intends to get all of the over 38 crore informal sector workers in India registered by March 2022.
“We are scaling up the pace and intend to register upto 25 lakh workers in a day. We are aiming to register the estimated number of unorganised sector workers by March 2022,” said a senior labour ministry official.