Press Information Bureau
Government of India
Prime Minister's Office
23-November-2010 11:15 IST
PM Inaugurates 43rd Session of Indian Labour Conference
The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, inaugurated the 43rd session of Indian Labour Conference in New Delhi today. Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s address on the occasion:

“I am very happy to have this opportunity to participate in this inaugural function of the 43rd session of the Indian Labour Conference.

Our government is committed to working with Trade Unions and Industry to ensure that the regulatory framework in the labour sector is conducive to both employment generation and workers' welfare and well being. This conference provides a platform for valuable dialogue between the various stakeholders in the labour sector. With representatives from 12 Central Trade Union Organizations, Central Organizations of Employers, all State Governments and Union Territories and the Central Government, the recommendations of the Conference carry immense weight. Over the years, they have shaped and influenced our policy and programmes in several areas. These include the formulation of grievance procedures, mechanisms for adjudication and voluntary arbitration, functioning of industrial tribunals and labour courts, and a whole series of labour welfare measures. They have had considerable bearing on the enactment of progressive legislations like the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act. They have paved the way for the emergence and growth of institutional mechanisms like the Central Board for Workers' Education and a number of Vocational Skill Training Institutions.

The issues before this 43rd Session of the Indian Labour Conference are of great contemporary relevance to our country. They include the impact of the global economic crisis on employment and welfare of our work force, the problems of contract labour and employment generation and skill development. These are issues which impinge directly on our quest for inclusive growth. I am sure that this Session of the Indian Labour Conference will result in useful recommendations for formulation of government policies on these important matters.

Over the last six and a half years or so, the UPA Government has endeavored not only to make our growth faster, but also to make it more inclusive. The welfare of the Aam Aadmi – our farmers, our workers, our artisans, the poor and the disadvantaged has always guided our policies and programmes during this period. We have launched innovative schemes for promotion of rural employment, in healthcare and in skill development. There have been many successes in our initiatives for social and economic inclusion. But we need to do much more. We stand committed not only to creating more employment but also to social security and welfare of our workers. We stand committed to economic reform with a human face, in which the interests of the weaker sections of our society are effectively protected. But our ability to devote more resources for social welfare activities depends crucially on our ability to accelerate the pace of economic growth. We need therefore sustained growth of 9-10 percent per annum to make a serious dent on poverty, unemployment and under development.

Here, I would like to repeat what I have stated earlier also on a number of occasions. Both industry and labour should and must work together to remove the barriers to faster economic growth and to faster growth of employment. Our regulatory framework in the labour sector should encourage investment in labour intensive industries. It should also ensure the well being of our workers. Simultaneously, it should make our industry more competitive by enhancing productivity. It is also important that the gains of enhanced productivity are equitably shared among shareholders, workers and consumers at large. I hope this broad perspective will guide the deliberations of this important conference.

Our quest for faster and more inclusive growth requires us to be constantly watchful. We should constantly introspect whether our policies are serving our goals. We should reflect upon possible flaws in our policies as well as ways to strengthen policy to withstand adverse circumstances. This reflective and critical perspective is particularly important as we think about our policies for labour and industrial relations. We have the welfare of all workers in mind, those in the organized sector of course, but also those in agriculture, in self-employment, in part-time jobs and in seasonal work. Therefore, we need to think about ways to make their productive lives more secure and sufficiently remunerative and also intrinsically satisfying.

I am very happy that the conference deliberations this year include the subject of contract labour. Besides thinking about providing social and economic security to such contract labour, and indeed to all citizens of this country, this may be the time to ponder about wider issues. For example, we have enacted several progressive labour laws since independence and some even before that. But it appears that not all these laws have had the intended good effects that we would like to see on the ground. We need to consider the possible role of some of our labour laws in contributing to rigidities in the labour market which hurt the growth of employment on a large scale. Is it possible that our best intentions for labour are not actually met by laws that sound progressive on paper but end up hurting the very workers they are meant to protect? Do we have empirical evidence on the changing nature of employment generation with changes in labour legislation, not just in our own country but in the neighbourhood as well? If we want to draw more and more workers into the organized sector where they can claim the benefits that currently cover such a very small proportion of our labour force, do we need to rethink the nature of the laws that enforce such benefits?

I cannot think of a better forum for such deliberations than the Indian Labour Conference. Its members all share the goal of promotion of labour welfare, have the technical and intellectual expertise to dissect and analyse policy option, and the ability to hammer out new suggestions for labour welfare in a rapidly changing economy.

With your help, the government has already taken some initiatives. But we wish to do more. For example, we are acutely aware that the micro and small enterprises sector has the second largest share of employment after agriculture. It encompasses a wide range of economic activities including khadi industry, village & coir industries, handlooms and handicraft industry, sericulture, wool industry, powerlooms industry, food processing industry, and other agro and rural industry segments. It mainly provides a livelihood to the weaker and unorganized sections of the society, with women and members of minority communities and marginalized sections of society constituting more than half of those employed in these sectors. In rural areas, it also helps to check premature migration of labour from rural to urban areas by gainfully employing people in villages. I hope the Indian Labour Conference will think of ways to strengthen these sectors.

Skills and knowledge are the driving forces of economic growth and social development in any country. The National Policy on Skill Development seeks to provide skills that enhance employability and help secure decent work to our young population. Our Government is upgrading the Industrial Training Institutes into centers of excellence to provide multi-skill courses. Various new schemes for qualitative and quantitative enhancement of vocational training have been launched. The emphasis is on aligning such training with the demands of industry. Active participation of the private sector is crucial for the success of our skill development programmes and we welcome moves in this direction. I expect the deliberations of this conference to come up with innovative ideas which could strengthen the government's efforts in the area of skill development.

I have heard with great interest the presentation by Shri Girish Awasthi with regard to the prices of essential commodities, I can assure this August conference that our Government is making serious efforts to moderate the inflation rates. We have difficulties but we shall overcome. There are many other suggestions which have been made by Shri Awasthi. I do hope that the Labour Ministry and other Wings of our Government will pay due attention to the deliberations that emerge out of your discussions. Yours is a very important Conference and I attach great importance to the though processes that emanate from this August body of Indian Labour Conference. With these words, I once again thank my colleague Shri Kharge ji, for giving me this opportunity to address this august gathering. I wish you all success in your deliberations.”