Workers’ empowerment needs digitalisation
KARACHI: Recognition clinched globally and outpouring support from across the country for the National Command Operation Center (NCOC) with regard to its success in efficient management of the Covid-19 pandemic has ignited a new hope among many Pakistanis, seeking digitalisation as a tool to help social and economic empowerment of over 90 million workers, largely non-registered in the country.
The NCOC having proven well that technology can literally be a remedy has left many wondering as why labour, social welfare, social security departments and those engaged in public dealing, besides institutions as Employees Old-Age Benefit Institute (EOBI) can also not get urgently linked to the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), ensuring listing of every citizen aged 18 years and above regardless of their nature of job, self-employed, regular, temporary or contract in the provision of essential details to actually empower the available human resource in the country.
The Digital Pakistan Vision 2019 introduced by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government complemented by a strong political will to help country achieve digital solutions for a number of challenges being faced by the country and its people is an additional source of encouragement for many who despite being duly conscious of the hindrances are optimistic that these may be addressed through sincerity of purpose.
For Naeem Sadiq, a senior researcher and citizens’ right activist, the digitalisation of the relevant departments and institutions at the federal and provincial levels can pave the way for realistic projections and proper categorisation of the labour force in the country.
“The fact that of the 90 million workers in the country, only 10 per cent are registered with the EOBI, whereas the percentage is much low in the available records of the relevant social security departments, at provincial or local levels, is denying vast majority of their rights guaranteed under the Constitution,” he told APP.
Emphasising that attention has also to be paid towards those associated with the informal sectors or working in units with less than five workers and/or self-employed, the activist said around 60 million workers are presently associated either with the informal sector, or are self-employed, or part-time workers or working in small units and not registered with any government department not even with the EOBI with no social security cover or even old age benefit, which though is a basic right of every senior citizen of the country.
In the given circumstances, Sadiq suggested that the EOBI may include every citizen above 18 years under its ambit with an efficient mechanism through which all those working under the category of informal sector can be encouraged to contribute to the EOBI in accordance with their capacities, even if it may be token, coupled with 6 per cent of minimum wage contribution by the EOBI, besides the monthly share of the employers (formal and informal sectors).
“The approach, if followed with due diligence, will add no unnecessary burden on the national exchequer and the government may not need to pay any extra penny in providing the EOBI cover to senior citizens of the country,” the activist said, reminding that less than 15 per cent of the people in the country are aware of the EOBI’s existence.
According to him, it was a high time that the country should have a compact and completely digitalised EOBI, directly linked with the Nadra database, enabling even a small but digitally skilled staff to monitor whether the EOBI contributions of a CNIC holder has been deposited or not by the employer leading towards required intervention with the major focus on the fact that all collections and payments are digitalised.
Reiterating that every citizen must be entitled to voluntary registration with the EOBI and social security, the activist suggested that the current practice of registering organisations only can be replaced by direct registration of individuals.
“The Nadra website must display the EOBI and social security registration number and payment status for all workers,” he suggested.
Senior trade unionist Habib Junaidi while inquiring about the occupational safety and health (OSH) of workers and relevance of digitalisation said the data could be procured but perhaps what is much more needed is the change of mindset among the stakeholders.
He; however, did agree with Sadiq that health and safety of workers is all about “Risk management” and that personnel of all relevant departments must be educated and digitally competent so as to make optimum use of the available technology for an updated occupational health and safety audit coupled with compilation of accurate workers’ databases.
Digital solutions are helpful for each and every section of the society provided concerted efforts are made for proper documentation, a crucial requirement, for realistic, as well as people-friendly policy formulation and implementation, Aurat Foundation resident director and a senior journalist Mehnaz Rehman said.
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