Topic: General Studies 2,3:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources
DUET (Decentralised Urban Employment and Training) for urban areas
- There is a crisis of employment in the urban informal sector, as millions of workers have lost their job due to periodic lockdowns, and may or may not retrieve it soon.
- Our public institutions and public spaces (schools, colleges, health centres, bus stands, jails, shelters, hostels, parks, museums, offices, etc.) have a chronic problem of poor maintenance.
- There is growing interest in an employment guarantee act, but little experience of relief works in urban areas. Decentralised Urban Employment and Training’ (DUET) could act as a step towards urban employment guarantee.
The basic idea of DUET
- The state government issues ‘job stamps’ and distributes them to approved institutions – schools, colleges, government departments, health centres, municipalities, neighbourhood associations, urban local bodies, etc
- Each job stamp can be converted into one person-day of work within a specified period, with the approved institution arranging the work
- Wages, paid by the government, would go directly to the workers’ accounts against job stamps certified by the employer.
- Employees are to be selected from a pool of registered workers by the approved employer, or, by an independent ‘placement agency’ (to avoid collusion)
What is the role of the placement agency?
- The primary role of the placement agency is to assign registered workers to approved employers as and when required. But it could also serve other purposes, for example, certifying workers’skills, protecting workers from exploitation and arranging social benefits for them.
- Various options could be considered for the placement agency, such as: (1) a single agency for the municipality, run by the local government; (2) a worker cooperative; (3) multiple placement agencies, run as non-profit organisations or cooperatives.
- Some countries have employment-subsidy schemes of similar inspiration, e.g. “service voucher schemes” (SVS) in several European countries.
- Belgium has a very popular SVS for domestic services such as cleaning and ironing. It was used by 1 out of 5 households in 2016.
- The service vouchers are much like job stamps, except that they are used by households instead of public institutions, for the purpose of securing domestic services such as cooking and cleaning.
- The service vouchers are not free, but they are highly subsidised, and households have an incentive to use them since that is a way of buying domestic services very cheap.
- In the DUET scheme, the use of job stamps relies on a sense of responsibility among the heads of public institutions, not their self-interest.
How is DUET different from MGNREGA?
- It is meant to create a lasting institution as an antidote to urban unemployment and urban decay.
- The motivation for DUET is quite different from that for MNREGA. MNREGA offers insurance to rural workers in a slack season or in a drought year when agricultural jobs disappear. That is not the case of urban production.
What is the rationale/merits of DUET?
- Job Creation: Activating a multiplicity of approved employers will help to generate a lot of employment.
- Activating a multiplicity of potential employers: The approved employers will have a stake in ensuring that the work is productive.
- Efficient: The scheme requires little staff of its own since existing institutions are the employers. The Scheme thus avoids the need for special staff, facilitating productive work.
- Avoids Leakages: Workers are assured of timely payment at the minimum wage as it involves direct payment of wages using JAM trinity.
- Towards employment guarantee: It would be relatively easy to move from DUET towards demand-driven ’employment guarantee’. That would require the municipality to act as a last-resort employer, committed to providing work to all those who are demanding work
- Urban Infrastructure Creation: Urban areas could use some infrastructure and there is under utilised labour but there are no resources to use this labour to build the infrastructure. DUET may be one way to solve this problem
What are the precautions that one needs to take to make DUET a success?
- Permissible List of Works: To avoid abuse, the use of job stamps could be restricted to a list of permissible works. But the list should be fairly comprehensive, and not restricted to maintenance.
- Avoid Displacement of Existing Jobs: The list of works should not be so broad as to displace existing jobs in public institutions.
- Ensure Worker Safety: All DUET employment should be subject to worker safety and welfare norms specified in the scheme and existing labour laws.
- Equity in worker registration: All urban residents above the age of 18 should be eligible to register under DUET, but special registration drives or placement agencies could be located in low-income neighbourhoods.
- Integrate Skilling: The scheme would cover both skilled and unskilled workers. Whenever a skilled worker is employed, an assistant (unskilled) worker could be mandatorily employed as well, to impart an element of training and skill formation to the scheme.
- Giving priority to women would have two further merits. First, it would reinforce the self-targeting feature of DUET, because women in relatively well-off households are unlikely to go (or be allowed to go) for casual labour at the minimum wage. Second, it would promote women’s general participation in the labour force.
- Needs Independent Monitoring: An independent authority could be appointed or designated at the municipal level to monitor, inspect, audit and evaluate the works.
The scheme should be given a chance by way of a pilot scheme in select districts or even municipalities.