Employees Provident Fund Organisation's 70th Foundation Day

Opening address by Ms Dagmar Walter, Director, ILO Decent Work Team for South Asia and Country Office for India.

Statement | New Delhi | 01 November 2022
Mr Bhupender Yadav, Honourable Union Minister for Labour and Employment; and Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change
Mr Rameswar Teli, Honourable Minister of State for Labour and Employment; and Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas
Ms Arti Ahuja, Secretary, Ministry of Labour and Employment
Mr Rajendra Kumar, DG, ESIC
Ms Neelam Shami Rao, Commissioner of the EPFO
Respected representatives of the employers and workers’ organizations
Distinguished colleagues of the EPFO
Ladies and gentlemen

Namaskar and a very good morning to you!

It is an honour to be here with you today to celebrate the 70th foundation day of the Employees Provident Fund Organisation! You are serving the needs of nearly one in every five Indian. The EPFO holds a place of pride for India and the world as one of the largest social security organizations. Standing strong as the social insurance lifeline for millions of workers and companies for several decades, the EPFO’s steadfast dynamism has been a beacon of hope and resilience through the thick and thin of India’s growth story – including most recently during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ILO shares with the EPFO, the profound values of social justice and social dialogue. We are tied together by our common objective of providing effective social protection, and our unflinching commitment to our tripartite constituents’ needs. And it is always a privilege for the ILO to work with and support the EPFO.

The recent COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the primacy of the social protection agenda globally. Since the beginning of 2020, we all learnt the value of pursuing good physical and mental health while maintaining economic activities. The contribution of EPFO towards universal coverage and ensuring Nirbadh, seamless and uninterrupted service delivery, to its members, will go a long way in maintaining the well-being of Indians, particularly the elderly people and their survivors, as well as persons with disabilities.

Globally, still a majority of the population is unable to access basic social protection. Currently, only 47 per cent of the global population are effectively covered by at least one social protection benefit, while 4.1 billion people (53 per cent) obtain no income security at all from their national social protection system.

ILO being the UN agency responsible for setting minimum standards on labour, the ILO has adopted various conventions and recommendations on social protection. Currently there are 14 up-to-date standards, including two prominent flagship ILO standards on social security and social protection. Namely:
  • Convention No. 102, which is Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention adopted by the tripartite constituents in 1952; and
  • Recommendation No. 202, which is Social Protection Floors Recommendation adopted by the tripartite constituents in 2012.
In addition, I could mention Convention No. 128 - Invalidity, Old-age and Survivors’ Benefit Convention, which sets slightly higher standards on invalidity, old-age, and survivors’ benefits.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development acknowledges a pivotal role of universal social protection ensuring its coverage, access and quality. It promotes nationally defined social protection floors, focusing on four social protection guarantees in the life cycle: for children, working-age, old-age and health protection throughout the life cycle. With only 8 years remaining to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, I sincerely hope that our close collaboration with EPFO in India will lead to the achievement of universal social protection coverage in the country.

Encouragingly, around 77 per cent of people above retirement age in the world receive some form of old-age pension. Pensions for older women and men are the most widespread form of social protection in the world, and a key element in meeting SDG target 1.3. However, major disparities still exist across regions, between rural and urban areas, and between women and men.

Observing the aspect of demographic growth, the United Nations' World Population Report 2022 has forecasted that India will surpass China in terms of total population in 2023, four years ahead of the previous UN forecast of 2027. India is still a young country but the UN forecasts that Indians over the age of 60 years will double by 2050, constituting almost 20 per cent of the total population. It means that one out of five Indians will be above 60 years by 2050. The country needs to prepare for serving an ageing society in the near future and in this respect, the EPFO’s role to provide income protection for old-age people will gain further significance in time. Social protection is a key to ensure older people’s well-being, dignity and rights, while also supporting their families. Adequate protection in old age remains a challenge for women, people in low-paid jobs, those in precarious forms of employment, people working on digital platforms and migrants.

I also wish to recognise that to strengthen the extension of social protection to Indian migrant workers abroad, the EPFO has already concluded 20 bilateral social security agreements with other countries. India is a leading country in South Asia with the experience of bilateral social security agreements and I hope we can create opportunities for sharing the rich experience of the EPFO with other countries in the region.

In the rapidly changing world of work, complex drivers and labour market trends have been creating both challenges and opportunities for social protection and India is no exception. Finally, I would like to restate that the pandemic has prompted us to realize the importance and necessity of universal social protection. I am happy and to see that EPFO’s Vision 2047 is working towards this objective! As always, the ILO is prepared to stand with and support the EPFO in this mission.

Thank you for your kind attention!