Indo-German Social Security Programme

Programme description

Title: Indo-German Social Security Programme
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: India
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare
Overall term: 2011 to 2020

India IGSSP. A women and her son present their RSBY insurance card. © GIZ


More than 400 million people – over 90 per cent of India’s labour force – are employed as daily wage labourers without contracts, as landless farm labourers or as traders. The majority of these informally employed people and their families have no access to appropriate social security. Families can fall into penury as a result of unforeseen expenses and income loss due to illness, accidents or death of the primary earner, or as old age reduces their earning opportunities. India’s central and state governments offer a range of social security programmes. However, these are often poorly organised and difficult to access for workers in the informal sector.

In 2008 the Indian Government adopted the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act (UWSSA) – a significant step towards improving social security for informally employed people and their families. The Act provides for the establishment of a national health insurance system, life and accident insurance and a social pensions programme. It also promises support during pregnancy and childbirth.


The social security system for informal workers and their families has improved.


The Indo-German Social Security Programme (IGSSP) provides policy advice, strengthens the capacities of ministries and other stakeholders, develops training materials, carries out evaluations, offers IT advice, and develops monitoring instruments and information campaigns for informal workers.

The programme has two areas of action:

  1. The design and introduction of national health insurance for the poor
  2. The convergence and improved coordination of different social security schemes

The main partner and executing agency is the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). The programme advises MoHFW on the implementation of Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), a social health insurance scheme for India’s poor. A biometric chip card (RSBY smartcard) enables families enrolled in the scheme to easily identify themselves and receive free treatment in public and private hospitals.

The programme is supporting MoHFW in designing and launching a new National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) to replace RSBY. The aim is to increase the number of eligible claimants substantially and improve the quality and scope of health services for the poor.

India IGSSP. Registering for RSBY: a woman’s fingerprints are recorded on her RSBY


Scaling-up of India’s national health insurance. RSBY has become one of the world’s largest health insurance schemes in terms of the number of beneficiaries. In March 2016, over 41 million poor households with approximately 125 million members were enrolled in the scheme.

Better access to health care for the poor. RSBY has so far covered 11.8 million hospitalisations in more than 10,000 registered hospitals.

Improved medical coverage for women. The percentage of women insured under RSBY rose from 41 to 49 per cent in a period of four years.

Lower out-of-pocket expenditure for hospital treatment. Independent evaluations show that families covered under RSBY have lower out-of-pocket expenditure on inpatient care.

Secure biometric authentication of beneficiaries using the RSBY smartcard. Using innovative technologies, entitlement to health care can be easily verified and electronically processed. This has improved the efficiency of government programmes and made them more inclusive.

Trained personnel to support government agencies. GIZ and its RSBY Professional Programme provide training for managers and specialists implementing RSBY. These personnel are placed within the federal state agencies responsible for managing RSBY.

Establishment of Single Window Service Centres (SWSCs). The Government of Karnataka is opening around 1,200 SWSCs in all 30 districts of the state following a successful pilot phase in which IGSSP demonstrated the benefits of such centres for informal workers. In addition, the Government of Karnataka plans to open more than 2,000 service centres covering all villages of the state. These centres are mandated to provide services in the areas of social protection, document certification, and updating of residents’ data.

Improved livelihoods for the elderly. Together with the non-governmental organisation HelpAge India, the programme has set up more than 900 elderly self-help groups (ESHGs) with a total of 12,400 members in the state of Bihar. The initiative aimed to enhance the incomes of its members through savings schemes and by providing training and seed capital for self-employment.

India. Elderly people in a pilot project for the formation of self-help groups.  © GIZ

The groups have disseminated information on government schemes for the elderly and also acted as pressure groups within their local communities and vis-à-vis the government. The Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) has adopted the concept of ESHGs under its National Rural Livelihoods Mission, and five states have decided to implement this unique model of self-help for the elderly.