The government is implementing the PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan to extend social security coverage to all workers in special economic zones and industrial clusters. Under this plan, workers in both the organised and unorganised sectors will be enrolled in the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) and the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) to receive provident fund and medical insurance benefits. This effort aims to increase the financial and medical security of these workers.
According to experts, while in the early years SEZs were exempted from the provisions of labour laws, they are now required to follow all extant laws.
The EPF and Miscellaneous Provisions Act of 1952 applies to establishments with 20 or more workers, and the scheme had nearly 6.8 trillion contributing members and 0.73 contributing establishments in the past year.
In 2003, the central government relaxed the application of labour laws, including the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) Act and the Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Act, to establishments in SEZs for a period of five years.
However, in 2015, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry clarified that the central government does not have the authority to relax any laws related to the welfare of labour in SEZs, and therefore all labour laws apply in these areas.
In recent years, SEZs and industrial clusters have held awareness camps for employers to enable them to include workers in social security schemes, but this is the first comprehensive effort by the government in this regard.