Officials say the ESIC will fund this entirely on its own, having a Rs 40 crore surplus of revenue over spending (from members contribution and its own investments) in the year before. And this allows a dole equal to half the last wage drawn by the laid-off worker for around five months. The highest ESIC contributor earns no more than Rs 7,500 a month, which makes all 70 lakh of them largely unskilled and easily replaceable labour. And so, the least likely to be able to know, or to access, the sort of re-training to make them more employable when the dole runs out.
The idea of a net is to cushion the shock of a fall and then get people back on their feet. This is essential if we are to push ahead with any kind of restructuring involving retrenchment of labour, as is most likely. But this cant happen without close links with industry, flexible hiring and training rules and making dole eligibility conditional, beyond a point, on a willingness to undergo re-training, or to accept a job placement. These are all areas where the government hardly has much of ideas or a system in place. If this is not rectified on a priority, the proposed national dole will be no more than that, not an aid to a more dynamic labour force.