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Why India Is Upgrading Labor Laws and What They Mean for Factories

In line with the recommendations of the Second National Commission on Labor, the Indian Ministry of Labor & Employment has taken steps to draft four Labor Codes–on wages, industrial relations, occupational safety, health and working conditions, and social security.

The new codes are meant to simplify, condense and rationalize relevant provisions of the existing Central Labor Laws, Shri Santosh Kumar Gangwar, minister of state for labor and employment, said. The proposed codification will also bring the existing labor laws in sync with the emerging economic conditions, the government said, and will reduce complexity by providing uniform definitions and reduction in multiple authorities under various acts, offering transparency and accountability in enforcement of labor laws.

This will lead to ease of compliance, catalyzing manufacturing unit set-up, including boosting labor-intensive industries such as agriculture and manufacturing exports. This would enhance employment opportunities and ensure safety, social security and worker welfare, Gangwar added.

The ministry has also developed a web portal to bring transparency and accountability in enforcement of labor laws and ease complexity of compliance. Two pension schemes created by the Indian government offer “old age protection and social security of unorganized workers.”

The code upgrade comes in the wake of a fire in December at a Delhi, India, handbag factory that killed at 43 workers. According to reports, as many as 100 workers were sleeping in the factory—which was operating illegally and did not have fire safety clearance—when the inferno started. Many of the deceased perished because of partially blocked exits and several sealed windows, the Times of India reported.

India’s lax enforcement of fire and building safety has been criticized for similar incidents.

“These unnecessary deaths and other recent tragic building incidents show the urgent need for transparent and credible enforcement of fire and building safety regulations throughout India’s industrial sector,” the Clean Clothes Campaign, a consortium of labor-rights groups, wrote. “Existing inspection systems, including the corporate social auditing firms used by multinationals to check on their supplier factories, have thus far failed to structurally improve factory safety across the country.”