How Maternity Benefits Can Be Extended to Informal Women Workers -Dipa Sinha and Sudeshna Sengupta

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published Published on Feb 7, 2019   modified Modified on Feb 7, 2019

The proposed Social Security Code, which brings together fifteen labour laws, is an opportunity to think afresh about the challenge of supporting new mothers – even in the informal economy.

Maternity entitlements in the form of wage compensation during pregnancy and after delivery is an internationally accepted right for all women workers. It is also recognised as a supportive mechanism for exclusive breastfeeding, critical for child nutrition and well-being. The legislative framework for ensuring maternity entitlements for women workers in India is currently very weak.

The Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 was recently amended to increase the period of maternity leave from 12 weeks to 24 weeks. However, this legislation covers only women who work in ‘establishments’, leaving out the majority of women who work on farms, at home and on the streets.

With over 90% of women in the informal sector, very few are even within the purview of the Act. While the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, passed in 2008, includes maternity benefits as one of the entitlements for the unorganised sector, no wage-linked scheme for this purpose has yet been notified by the government.

The Janani Suraksha Yojana (JSY) has been notified under this Act, but that is an incentive for institutional delivery and nothing more. The only entitlement currently available for all women is from the National Food Security Act (NFSA), that promises at least Rs 6,000 for all pregnant and lactating women.

Please click here to read more., 7 February, 2019,

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