Saturday, July 24, 2021

Social security

It is widely believed that one of the permanent tasks of any government is to create jobs for its citizens. The demands on this front are always mounting, and as you have more people and more education, it is very hard to keep up with the challenge. Nevertheless, governments have tried to broaden the horizon and create new avenues to accommodate the rising numbers of educated youth. In this effort it is not just the development of infrastructure, and the governance institutions, but the change in policies that has actually helped. But despite all this it is not just possible for any government to accommodate all the educated youth that are produced each year. To fill in the gaps the governments try to create an overall atmosphere where economic activities can pick up and its benefits can trickle down, accommodating new people in the business fold. That is the solution to the rising demands of the youth. In India the opening up of the markets and the arrival of corporate sectors had given a huge push to job creation, and people in good numbers would find it to the corporate sector. The overall impact of this was that the pressure was off from the government to an extent. In fact the reverse was happening. Many from the government sector would leave and prefer some corporate job. At the same time the industrial sector would accommodate many people as young entrepreneurs would start their own ventures. This was also a huge relief to the government as one successful venture would pave way for dozens to engage in some kind of an economic activity. The cumulative effect was that the young educated lot would find a berth somewhere to start a career. Unfortunately the overall downturn in the economy for some time, compounded by the COVID crisis, has created a huge breakdown in this regard. People have lost jobs and businesses and their financial positions are very weak now. In this situation people now want a job in government, as they consider it safe and reliable. Here the onus is on the government to widen the net of safety to include private sector and other businesses, so that the job market doesn’t shrink to government spaces only. After all government cannot accommodate all the educated youth. If the private sector is made dependable, people would not lose jobs the way they have in this pandemic. At the same time, there is a need for social security and beneficiary schemes to reach the grassroots. The idea of social security is at the core of any welfare state. Any state, or any government running that state, are authentic, legitimate, and functional only till they focus on the social security of a common person. In the western countries, and other developed states of the world, we have an elaborate system of social security where almost none is left out. The healthcare exigencies are taken care of, and so are other human needs addressed. Compared to that we are lagging far behind. Except a small minority of government employees no one here is secured in terms of a health emergency or any other eventuality. Consequently we have seen even well to do families devastated in case the earner dies, or faces some disability. Similarly government schemes for the poor and marginalized are neither so robust, nor is the distribution at the ground level so efficient that it could turn around the situation. That is the reason that problems persists, and there are chilling accounts of how poverty has driven families to indescribable devastation. If it is said that the benefit of the existing schemes should reach the grassroots level, no one can disagree with that, and we need to appreciate all steps taken in that direction. But the larger question is that the government should start working seriously on a comprehensive plan that takes into account all the people regardless of who they are. In case of basic minimum needs, and a cover for eventualities, no difference should be made on whether a person is working in government sector, private sector, or has some independent business, or is an agriculturalist, or a labourer. These benefits from the state should percolate down to every single citizen. Providing basic minimum needs, and taking care of the health emergencies, is no privilege. The state must think in terms of allocating resources for schemes that offer these securities.