Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana extended to the Domestic Workers of India

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By Y. S. Kataria
Director (M & C), Press Information Bureau, New Delhi

New Delhi, India, July 19, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB India) The Union Cabinet approved extension of the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) to all the registered domestic workers in the country recently. The scheme is expected to cover approximately 47.50 lakh domestic workers in the country.

The Scheme envisages smart card based cashless health insurance cover up to Rs. 30,000/- in any empanelled hospital anywhere in the country. The funds will be allocated from the National Social Security Fund for Unorganised Workers. The premium will be shared by the Central and State Governments in the ratio of 75:25. In case of States in NE Regional and J&K the ratio is 90:10. The estimated expenditure to be borne by the  Government for the year 2011-12 is Rs. 29.70 crore, for 2012-13 is Rs. 74.25 crore, for 2013-14 is Rs. 148.50 crore and 2014-15 is Rs. 297 crore.

Domestic work forms one of the largest sectors of female employment in the urban areas. Domestic workers are unorganized and the sector remains unregulated and unprotected by labour laws. These workers come from vulnerable communities and backward areas. Most of these are poor, vulnerable, illiterate, unskilled and do not understand the urban labour market.

The RSBY provides for smart card based cashless health insurance cover of Rs.30,000/- per annum to BPL workers (a unit of five) in unorganised sector is presently being implemented in 25 States / UTs. The scheme has since been extended to building and other construction workers registered with Welfare Boards constituted under the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act 1996, street vendors, beedi workers and such MNREGA workers who have worked for more than 15 days during the preceding year.

Domestic Workers

Domestic work forms one of the largest sectors of female employment in the urban areas. Domestic workers are unorganized and the sector remains unregulated and unprotected by labour laws. This is largely because the domestic workers undertake work in private homes rather than in commercial establishments. They work in appalling conditions, with no coverage under the existing welfare measures and schemes for social security, old age pension, health and maternity protection etc.  Domestic workers lack organizational strength and voice and comprise largely of unskilled women, who enter the labour market without any technical skills.  As per National Sample Survey (NSS) 2004-05, there are about 47.50 lakh domestic workers in the country. About 30 lakh of these workers are urban women, making domestic work as the largest female occupation in urban India.

Domestic workers come from vulnerable communities and backward areas. Most of these are poor, vulnerable, illiterate, unskilled and do not understand the urban labour market. Domestic work is undervalued and poorly regulated, and many domestic workers remain overworked, underpaid and unprotected. They are maltreated, exploited and suffer violence and even sexually abused.  The main issues that concern domestic work are: lack of decent wages and work conditions, no defined work time, no weekly offs, loneliness, violence, abuse, and sexual harassment at workplace, victimization at the hands of traffickers/ placement agencies, forced migration, lack of welfare measures (such as health insurance, maternity protection, old age security), and lack of skills development resulting in stagnation and no career growth.

Looking at the vulnerable nature of the domestic workers, the Ministry of Labour & Employment constituted a Task Force to evolve a policy frame work on Domestic Workers in the context of regulatory mechanism and for providing social security. The Task Force in its Report has, inter-alia, recommended extension of the welfare schemes to the domestic workers including: health and maternity benefits, death and disability benefits, and old age benefits. The Task Force defined the “domestic workers” as follows:

“Domestic Worker” means, a person who is employed for remuneration whether in cash or kind , in any house hold through any agency or directly, either on a temporary basis or permanent, part time or full time to do the household work but does not include - any member of the family of an employer.”

The State Governments would identify domestic workers as those having completed 18 years of age. For the purpose of identification of domestic workers, any two of the following criteria would be treated as evidence of persons working as domestic workers:

·         certificate by registered Resident Welfare Association to the effect that a person is working as a domestic worker in the area;
·         employer certificate
·         certificate from a registered trade union that the concerned person is working as a domestic worker;
·         police verification certificate which certifies that the person is working as a domestic worker.

The Task Force has recommended that the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), the national health insurance scheme should be the first welfare scheme to be extended to the domestic workers.  RSBY provides for smart card based cashless health insurance cover of Rs. 30000 per annum per family (a unit of five).  The premium is shared between Centre and State Government in the ratio of 75:25 basis.   25 States/Union Territories have started enrollment and issuance of smart cards in 348 districts. Remaining States except Andhra Pradesh are in the process of implementation of the scheme.  More than 2.35 crore smart cards have been issued as on June 30, 2011.

The Government  has taken a decision to extend the RSBY to domestic workers. It is proposed to cover 10% of the estimated 47.50 lakh domestic workers i.e. 4.75 lakh during the current financial year i.e.  2011-12 and remaining in next three years.   After 2014-15 the recurring expenditure is likely to be around Rs. 297 crores annually, though the exact amount will be determined on the basis of persons identified and registered as domestic workers under the scheme during each preceding year and the actual premium rates. The expenditure will be met from the National Social Security Fund for unorganized sector workers administered by Ministry of Finance.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) also discussed at length during the last International Labour Conference on International Convention for protecting the rights of domestic workers and for providing social security to this extremely vulnerable segment of unorganised workers and adopted a Convention and Recommendation. The Government  of India supported adoption of Convention on Domestic Workers.

- PIB Features



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