1. What is the scheme?
a. A major announcement in the Interim Budget 2019-20 was the creation of the Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Mandhan, a pension scheme for informal workers.
b. Under this scheme, subscribers will receive an assured monthly pension of ₹3,000 per month from the age of 60 onwards. Towards this, they will have to contribute ₹55 a month (if they join at the age of 18 years), or ₹100 a month (if they join at the age of 29 years). The government will match these contributions.
c. The government has reportedly set a cap on the age of joining at 40 years, but this is yet to be officially confirmed by the Labour Ministry.
2. Whom does it include?
a. In his Budget speech, Finance Minister said half of India’s GDP comes from the work done by 42 crore workers in the unorganized sector, such as street vendors, rickshaw pullers, construction workers, rag pickers, agricultural workers, beedi workers, those engaged in the handloom and leather industries, and domestic workers.
b. He said the government must provide these workers with a “comprehensive social security coverage” in their old age.
c. The Shram Yogi Mandhan scheme is aimed at achieving that, and therefore includes all informal sector workers with an income of less than ₹15,000 per month.
d. According to the government, this works out to 10 crore people.
e. Finance Ministry suggested that the pension payouts could be made directly in the workers’ accounts, which would be Aadhaar-linked.
3. What will the government spend?
a. So far, the government has allocated just ₹500 crore for the scheme, but this is likely to be increased in the full Budget that will be presented in July.
b. An analysis of the Interim Budget documents shows that the allocation for the Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Mandhan could possibly come at the expense of an existing pension scheme — the National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP) — announced last year to benefit more than three crore poor senior citizens, disabled people, and widows.
4. Will the scheme work?
a. Social sector workers have pointed out that creating a voluntary contributory pension scheme for informal sector workers is not likely to work as their salaries are low. The argument is that they already pay large amounts as indirect taxes.
b. Further, for a salaried worker, the pension contribution can be cut from the salary. A daily wage earner or migrant laborer will, however, have to regularly deposit her income each month, which is an uncertain proposition.
5. What lies ahead?
a. The government is silent on what happens to the scheme if an informal sector worker misses a contribution.
i. Does the worker become disqualified from the scheme?
1. If so, what happens to the amount already contributed?
2. Will the government refund the worker that amount, or will that amount be forfeited?
b. Another matter to be considered is what happens to a worker who transitions to the formal workforce. Answers are awaited on all these questions.