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What is the E-Shram Portal? Know its importance

Recently, the E-Shram Portal for the creation of the National Database of Unorganized Workers (NDUW) was launched by the Ministry of Labor and Employment (MoLE).

The portal came into existence after the Supreme Court directed the government to complete the process of registration of unorganized workers.

However, in view of the enactment of the Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008, this much-needed step has been delayed by almost a decade in coming into existence.

While this initiative towards solving the problems of the informal sector is commendable, the new portal also raises concerns on issues like data protection of workers, digital illiteracy.

Unorganized Sector and E-labor

Total share: According to the Periodic Labor Force Survey (PLFS 2018-19), 90% of the workers were engaged in the informal sector (419 million out of a total of 465 million workers).

Impact of the pandemic: Informal workers in rural and urban areas were most affected by the pandemic due to the seasonal nature of their employment and lack of formal employee-employer relationships.

E-Shram Portal: It intends to register around 398-400 million unorganized workers and issue them an e-shram card with a 12 digit unique number.

E-Shram Portal Importance:

Accident coverage: Every person who registers on the portal will be eligible for accident coverage of Rs 2 lakh per annum which is provided annually under Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY).

Integration of Welfare Schemes: The portal aims to integrate all the social welfare schemes available for the benefit of unorganized workers.

Benefits for Inter-State Migrants: The portal helps inter-state migrant workers avail welfare schemes regardless of their location.

Social Security Benefits: Workers in the unorganized sector will be able to get social security benefits available in the form of insurance coverage, maternity benefits, pension, educational benefits, provident fund benefits, housing schemes, etc.

Tele-density and low levels of digital literacy: India still has a remarkable digital divide. According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the total teledensity (number of telephone connections per 100 people in a specified geographical area) as of June 30, 2021, was found to be 60.10 percent as of compared to the rural teledensity at 88.07. %. The problem is compounded by low levels of digital literacy.

Problems related to Aadhar: By imposing the condition of Aadhar, workers without Aadhar cards will be excluded from the process.

Many workers in the unorganized sector have to change mobile numbers frequently and may not always be able to use an Aadhaar linked mobile.

Aadhaar-seeding is already a contentious issue in the North-Eastern regions.

In addition, the Aadhaar verification system has faced several technical failures which have led to serious problems of exclusion from welfare benefits.

Data-Security Issues: In the absence of a stringent data protection law, one of the major concerns of the portal is data security and its potential misuse as it is a huge database.

The central government will have to share the data with the state governments which have different data protection capabilities.

Non-inclusive coverage of workers: With employees excluded from the purview of EPF and ESI, lakhs of contract workers will be kept out of the purview of unorganized workers.

Moreover, this portal is available only for the unorganized workers in the age group of 16 to 59 years. Thus, NDUW excludes a significant number of workers over the age of 59, reflecting age-based discrimination.

Ambiguity about ‘gig’ workers: Although the Ministry of Labor and Employment includes ‘gig’ workers in the process, the other three labor codes do not include them as workers, nor do the social security code specifically include them, unless they are declared ‘self-employed’ or ‘wage workers’.

Road ahead

Allowing different means of identification: Making Aadhaar mandatory for registration is unconstitutional and extraordinary. The use of other government-provided identity cards should also be allowed to verify the identity of a worker.

Triple linkage-One Nation-One-Ration Card (ONORC), e-Shram Card, and EC Card can be done for efficient and leak-free distribution of all kinds of benefits to the workers.

Also, the facility of use of different numbers should be provided to the workers as this will increase the number of registrations on the portal.

Offline Registration: Since not all workers will be able to access the online portal, arrangements for offline registration should also be made.

In this regard, Common Service Centers (CSCs) can be availed which can organize ‘Registration Camps’ for workers willing to register offline.

Adopting a multidisciplinary approach: The success of the project depends on the participation of various stakeholders. It will also include the following:

  • Extensive and innovative dissemination exercise involving diverse media outlets in different languages.
  • Organized camps by the government on the demand of the stakeholders.
  • Resolution efficiency of the grievance redressal mechanism.
  • micro level operation.

Survey and Monitoring: In order to assess the efficiency of the registration system, the government should publish the statistics of registration at the national and regional levels.

Corruption is also a concern as mid-service agencies like Internet providers can charge exorbitant fees for registration and print of e-shram cards. Therefore, the involvement of monitoring agencies is important.


The COVID-19 crisis has made us understand the importance of creating a safety net and the need for a strong social security mechanism for India’s unorganized sector.

E-Shram is an important system to provide the necessary visibility to the workers who were invisible till now. It will provide them with labor market citizenship documents.

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