Provident fund for workers in informal sector

Dhaka,  Fri,  28 July 2017
Published : 15 Apr 2017, 19:57:00
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Provident fund for workers in informal sector

There is good news for workers in the informal sector. For the first time in the country's history, workers at the bottom rung of society will be brought under a formal system of financial security coverage. Rules have been formulated for them to enjoy the benefits of provident fund (PF). Most such workers earn a pittance and the question of savings, gratuity, insurance and pension does not arise at all. The proposed scheme will open up the opportunity for them to get the benefit of contributory provident fund. Workers ranging from domestic helps to farm labourers with others engaged in odd occupations in between will be eligible for the small but significant largesse. Initially 0.1 million such workers will be brought under the proposed scheme. This will be a major step in ensuring financial security for the workers not organised enough to demand a better deal for themselves. 

Not protected by the labour law, the workers will be asked to open PF accounts with any branch of the post office across the country. The rule will be simple: workers in the construction sector, welding, etc., or self-employed small earners, such as vendors and blacksmiths, will deposit Tk 100 and the government will also contribute the same amount each month from what will be known as the workers' welfare foundation (WWF). The tenure of the PF would be 25 years and in case of discontinuation of deposits before five years, the contributory portion of the government will not be awarded. In case of permanent disability or death of a worker, his/her nominee will be entitled to receive Tk 0.2 million. For any fatal disease, Tk 0.1 million will be handed over. Even there will be provision for maternity benefits for female workers. 

A financial programme such as this certainly has a bright prospect if it is run sincerely and efficiently. The motivation part of the exercise will, however, prove crucial. Once they realise that the government does care for them, they will readily respond most positively. However, there will be some practical problems involving opening accounts particularly when functional literacy of many of these workers is in doubt. Also, chances of irregularities and manufacturing account holders cannot be ruled out. Instead of the target people, others may take advantage of the generous scheme. 

So, there is need for launching a social awareness campaign so that the most eligible segment of the population can take benefit of the PF scheme. Here the post offices should develop a foolproof mechanism in order to screen out the ineligible from the genuine candidates intending to open accounts. Now that every citizen is entitled to a smart card, the distribution of this among the population well before the start of the scheme can help the cause. Not only will this special identity card be of help in removing any confusion over a person's picture and other details but also in tracing him or her if needed. Let the scheme take off with the objective of dispensing at least some amount of social justice.
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Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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