This year’s May Day celebration was confined to virtual meetings and interactions owing to the prohibitory order imposed to contain the second wave of COVID-19. The new surge of virus has disrupted the normal life of people. The poor, needy and daily wage earners have been hit hard by the onerous restriction. It forced over 200,000 people to leave the Kathmandu Valley. For them, the prohibitory order means no work and no income. The pandemic has dealt double blow to them. On one hand, it has infected and killed hundreds of people. On the other, it has deprived them of job and incomes. As the people lose the basic means of survival, they suffer from economic, social, psychological and mental problems. So, the May Day provides an occasion to reflect on the strong social security net to protect the livelihood of the workers involved in both formal and informal sectors.
In line with the spirit of the constitution, the present government has taken an array of initiatives to ensure social security for all workers regardless of the nature of their work. One important work it has done is the redefinition of the concept of lifelong employment and end of discrimination between the formal and informal workers. It has increased investment in the social sector while promoting respect for labour and dignified work. Now the number of people entitled to eight different types of social security allowances has been increased by 500,000 and reached 3 million and 60 thousand in the last three years. Senior citizens each get Rs. 100 per day and free health insurance worth Rs. 100,000 that is available in 75 districts.
About 12,000 employers and 200,000 workers have joined the contribution-based social security scheme, which was launched on November 27, 2018. Likewise, more than 200,000 people have been provided with a minimum of 100 days of work or half of the minimum wage as ‘unemployment allowance’ in a fiscal year. The government has decided to increase the minimum wage from Rs. 13,450 to 15,000 from the upcoming fiscal year. This is indeed good news for the workers who have been unable to get fair wages despite repeated pleas for the same. Under the neoliberal system, there remains hesitancy to allocate money for the social security of workers and common people. The neo-liberalists believe the trickledown theory, which they claim, benefit all segments of population. However, experiences have shown that economic inequality has greatly increased even in the advanced countries where the trickledown theory has no longer worked.
In his address delivered on the occasion of the May Day, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has said: “Those who were for smart government and the limited role of the state and against the role of the state in terms of people’s rights a few decades ago have now come to the conclusion that the trickledown theory has never worked.” This line of thought was also echoed in US President Joe Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress where he announced that trickledown had never worked and asked the US’s top 1 per cent to pay for his $1.8 trillion American families plan. Therefore, it is imperative to create credible and functional social security net to support the poor and working class people who lack necessary savings that come handy in the time of crises triggered by the pandemic or recession.