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 Labour and Employment
Overall term: 2011 to 2017

India. A family with a smartcard for cash-free treatment in hospital. © GIZ


More than 400 million people – over 90% of India’s labour force – are employed as daily wage labourers without contracts, as independent smallholder farmers or as traders. The majority of these informally employed people have no access to appropriate social security. As a result, any unforeseen expenses and income losses due to illness, accidents or death of the primary earner, or simply because of old age, usually plunge families deeper into penury. Though there are various social security programmes offered by India’s central and state governments, they are often difficult to access for workers in the unorganised sector, and frequently they are poorly coordinated and administered.

India. Registering with a fingerprint for the RSBY national health insurance scheme for unorganised workers © GIZ

In 2008, the Indian Government passed the Unorganised Workers' Social Security Act (UWSSA). It was a major milestone in providing social protection to this vulnerable segment of society. The Act focuses on the four core areas of health insurance, old age protection, maternity support, and life and accident insurance.


The social security system for unorganised workers and their families has improved and the number of beneficiaries has increased.

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


The Indo-German Social Security Programme supports the implementation of the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act by the Ministry of Labour and Employment (MoLE). It also assists the Ministry of Finance (MoF) in designing and managing various social security schemes which fall under the act.

The programme combines expert advice on policy design with process-oriented and organisational support to successfully implement the act’s social security schemes. It also undertakes capacity building initiatives for key stakeholders in the social security field and evaluates the impact of the schemes.

The programme is working with the Government of India in the following areas:

  • Health insurance – The programme supports the Ministry of Labour & Employment in the development and implementation of Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), a national health insurance scheme for families living below the poverty line. The system is based on a smartcard that allows insured individuals to receive treatment in hospitals without paying cash.
  • Old-age protection – In cooperation with HelpAge India, the programme is running a pilot project to form self-help groups for the elderly. This initiative shall improve their access to existing social security benefits and banking services. The programme also worked to improve access of poor families to the national pension scheme NPS lite, a contributions-based programme for old-age pensions in the informal sector.
  • Life and accident insurance ­ ­ – The Ministry of Finance receives advice on how to improve the reach of the national life and accident insurance scheme, known as Aam Aadmi Bima Yojana (AABY), and on how to provide this coverage in combination with RSBY via the latter’s IT platform.
  • Convergence of social security schemes – The programme offers advice on combining delivery of the various social security schemes, including the health insurance RSBY, the pension scheme NPS lite and the national life and accident insurance scheme, through an integrated social security card. It is also supporting some of India’s federal states in the design and implementation of related pilot schemes.
  • Dialogue and knowledge sharing – The programme promotes a social policy dialogue between India and Germany, organising bilateral exchange visits, focus-group meetings and regular seminars and conferences. Apart from this, it also fosters South-South cooperation on social security issues through regional conferences and bilateral exchanges, and it is an active member of the worldwide ‘Joint Learning Network for Universal Health Coverage’ together with other countries and development partners.

Results achieved so far

  • RSBY, India’s national health insurance scheme for the poor, is now one of the world’s largest, providing coverage to over 37 million impoverished households (approx. 120 million people). It delivers healthcare services through more than 10,000 public and private hospitals across India.
  • RSBY is available in 26 federal states and two union territories. There have been pilot initiatives in four states to test the expansion of the scheme to cover out-patient treatments.
  • One state is already using the RSBY IT platform to provide other social benefits, including food subsidies through the Public Distribution System. This is bringing substantial savings and greater transparency to social security schemes at the state government level. More states are planning to replicate this model.
  • With its training activities, the programme is enhancing the capacities of the most important actors; it is developing training materials and curriculums that help improve the management of the RSBY scheme.
  • The GIZ-RSBY professional programme provides training for young managers, whom it then places with the implementing agencies of the social health insurance programme in the federal states. By March 2014, three groups had undergone training. Many of the alumni are now working in the federal states.
  • The programme has assisted the state governments in evaluating the implementation of RSBY, and has conducted studies in the four north-eastern states of Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Manipur. A meta-analysis of RSBY is currently ongoing, which will draw together the results of studies in seven states and will serve as preparation for a national evaluation report.
  • The programme is also carrying out a three-year longitudinal panel evaluation to measure the results of RSBY. This study examines improvements in access to health services, and the reduction of out-of-pocket expenditure during hospital stays for people insured under RSBY.
  • Through cooperation with HelpAge India, more than 900 self-help groups for the elderly have been formed in northern Bihar. The pilot initiative enhances the incomes of its members through savings schemes and by providing training and seed capital for self-employment. The Ministry of Rural Development has decided to include this approach in its national livelihood programme, the National Rural Livelihood Mission.