ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Amalgamation of Existing Laws or Labour Reform?

The Draft Labour Code on Social Security, 2018 of the National Democratic Alliance government was expected to reform existing labour laws and improve the state of the economy and labour. However, a close reading of the proposed code suggests that it is an amalgamation of existing laws, and the government has neither removed redundant provisions nor overhauled the existing provisions to make employment benefits available to employees in a quicker, simpler, and effective manner. The alteration of taxonomy and unification of older laws in the new code is likely to weaken the legal doctrine by destroying the comprehensibility of the law, and will lead to poor implementation.

The second National Commission on Labour (NCL) set up in 1999 recommended that labour laws, which are fragmented and incoherent but are broadly based on common purpose, should be simplified through unification. After a decisive mandate in May 2019, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)–II government is keen to act on these recommendations to improve the ease of doing business in India. This unswerving decision of the government to simplify labour laws has been doggedly defended by the neo-liberals. To attain a growth rate of 7%–8% has been an “unwritten golden goal” for every government’s performance ever since the liberalisation of the Indian economy in 1991 (Kohli 2006; Ahluwalia 2002).

However, one of the consequences of economic liberalisation is the springing up of new avenues of employment in India’s informal sector and deregulation of employment in the formal economy. Consequently, precarious work, rapid casualisation, contractualisation of work and employment, and the new economy have posed challenges to existing legal norms. For some, archaic labour laws are the biggest stumbling blocks to achieve economic liberalisation and, for others, these laws are meant only to protect a fraction of the workforce who are in the formal economy (7% of the total workforce). Meanwhile, workers are faced with declining wages, dreadful working conditions, and employers’ non-compliance of health and safety standards, coupled with the government’s lackadaisical attitude towards social security for labour across sectors. However, these conditions do not deter the government to pursue further reforms for the informal sector workforce.

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Updated On : 12th Jul, 2019
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