India is one of the youngest countries in the world right now in terms of demographics. Our youth is creating unprecedented change in fields as diverse as technology, science, healthcare, space exploration and more. India has also set its sights on becoming a USD 5 Trillion economy in the next 5 years. In this race to the top, it is only natural to think about the generations of hard-working individuals who have given us the launchpad that we have today. It is also worth noting that a young India will be an old India in the next 40 to 50 years. Keeping this in mind we need to think about how social security will play a big role in all of our lives.
For centuries, social security wasn’t much of a concern for us Indians because of the tight-knit family / social structure we had. As we move from a low-income economy to a middle-income economy, we need to understand that this growth is happening at the cost of young individuals moving away from larger, joint families in smaller towns to pursue their careers in larger cities with no or nuclear families. As this trend becomes more evident, the rise of nuclear families with little or no interaction with their relatives, friends, neighbours, etc. is also becoming a reality.
It won’t be a stretch to say that most people in Bangalore might have no idea about the family that lives next door. This was never the case a few decades ago when everyone from the grandfather to the grandson lived under a single roof. In such a structure, the elderly were taken care of by their children and grandchildren. Our government too didn’t have to worry too much about this, because social security for senior citizens was largely thought of as a family matter. As this ground reality is evolving, it becomes important to think of social security as a fundamental right for every Indian.
Social security in India is largely focused on retirement pension, family pension, widow pension, old age pension, health insurance, medical benefits, disability benefits, maternity benefits to women, and gratuity. Over the decades, the government has created various schemes like Integrated Programme for Senior Citizens (IPSrC), Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana (RVY), Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme (IGNOAPS), Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana (VPBY), The Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana, National Programme for the Health Care of Elderly (NPHCE), to serve various sections of our society.
Even after all this, it seems inadequate because these programmes only reach out to a small section of our large society. More than 90% of India’s workforce works in the unorganised sector, and I believe that extending well planned social security schemes to this sector is the key to long term prosperity and stability. Such schemes should not only be extended to the senior citizens in rural areas, but to the entire workforce that is working towards making India a global power. Another thought I have about social security is that it can help boost entrepreneurship and help India achieve its ambitious economic goals by freeing up the workforce from the worry of who will take care of their old parents and grandparents.
A strong social security framework is beneficial for everyone in India. Of course, it will have a huge monetary implication, but I believe that our leadership has the firepower to come up with a broader plan that can take care of our current workforce and will continue to support them once they have spent their lives in the service of our country.