Trade unions set to protest against the decision
Starting July 1, both employer’s and employee’s contribution under the Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Act, which gives insured workers medical benefits among other facilities, would be reduced, the Centre said on Thursday.
The total contribution towards ESI was reduced from 6.5% of an employee’s wages to 4%, with the employer’s share cut to 3.25%, from 4.75%, and the employee’s contribution lowered to 0.75% of wages, from 1.75%, the government announced.
“This would benefit 3.6 crore employees and 12.85 lakh employers,” the Labour and Employment Ministry said in a statement. “The reduced rate of contribution will bring about a substantial relief to workers under the ESI scheme and bring more and more workforce into the formal sector,” it added.
The financial liability on employers would also be reduced, leading to improved viability of the establishments, increased ease of doing business and likely improved compliance with the Act, the government said, adding that the current rates had been in place since January 1, 1997.
However, a member of the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation’s Standing Committee and a representative of the RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, V. Radhakrishnan, said the reduction in contribution rates was a reason for concern.
“BMS has a strong protest against this,” said Mr. Radhakrishnan. “The ESIC is an autonomous body and these rates have not been discussed. If the government proposes even lower rates in the next Board meeting of the ESIC, we will oppose it. We want to increase the benefits given to employees, not reduce the contribution so much,” he added.
An official of the Labour and Employment Ministry, however, dismissed the criticism as mere “apprehensions”.
“We will be able to ensure better compliance and encourage establishments to bring more people under the scheme,” asserted the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It will be in the greater good of the employees,” the official added.
The number of people insured under the scheme increased to 3.6 crore in 2018-2019, from 2.1 crore in 2015-2016, with the total contribution received climbing to ₹22,279 crore, from ₹11,455 crore, government data show. The number of employers in the scheme increased from 7.83 lakh in 2015-2016 to 8.98 lakh in 2016-2017, then to 10.33 lakh in 2017-2018 and to 12.85 lakh in 2018-2019.
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