Delivering integrated and inclusive social security solutions for the poor

To draw attention of policy makers and implementers in India to the challenge of social protection for vulnerable populations, such as the poor, unorganised workers and the elderly, a policy roundtable was held on 20 November, 2015 in New Delhi. The roundtable was hosted jointly by non-profit microPension Foundation (mPF) and GIZ.

The event in New Delhi was organised under the umbrella of the Global Financial Inclusion 2020 Week (http://www.fi2020week.org). This is part of the global initiative ‘Financial Inclusion 2020’, spearheaded by the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion (CFI).

Speakers at the roundtable included R. V. Verma of India’s Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA), Dr. Alok Pande of the Department of Financial Services in Government of India’s Ministry of Finance, Dr. Nishant Jain of the Indo-German Social Security Programme of GIZ, Gautam Bharadwaj of Invest India Economic Foundation and Parul Khanna of microPension Foundation. The discussions were moderated by Dr. Shubhashis Gangopadhyay, Director of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Shiv Nadar University. Apart from the panel speakers, the roundtable had participants from public and private sector insurance providers, think tanks and research organisations, civil society organisations, international agencies and the government.

Financial inclusion is increasingly recognised as a policy priority in order to allow poor and excluded groups to access quality financial services that would help them build better futures for their families. In India also, the government has given a firm push to financial inclusion through the ‘JAM’ trio of Jan Dhan Yojana (a combination of banking access and social protection programmes for life and accident insurance and contributory pension), Aadhar (India’s biometric-based unique identification number) and Mobile connectivity. The idea is to make financial stability and social protection a reality for every citizen, including the most vulnerable.

This initiative has also seen mixed success, with the pension component of the Prime Minister’s Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) having fewer takers than the accident and life insurance schemes. This is symptomatic of the nature of India’s employment landscape. More than 90 percent of the country’s workers are employed in the informal sector, and a large number of them are poor. For this vast segment of population, pension takes a back seat as against addressing immediate day-to-day needs.

The roundtable discussed ways in which pension can be made more attractive to this segment of workers, by way of better awareness-building and providing a comprehensive package including other insurance products. Experiences in the use of information technology to identify and reach out to large sections of the population were also shared, especially the huge success of PMJDY in providing banking access to the poor. Using innovative means to cover unorganised workers and the need to rationalise multiple government social security programmes were also mentioned as priority areas to focus on.

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