GJEPC PLANS FOR THE SUSTAINABLE GROWTH OF INDIAN INDUSTRY THROUGH A SECTOR-WIDE SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM CATERING TO FIVE MILLION WORKERS AND THEIR FAMILIES
One may surmise that the health of an industry is directly correlated to the wellbeing of its workforce. This is particularly relevant when it comes to a labor-intensive sector like gems and jewelry. In India, thanks to initiatives spearheaded by the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), millions of gem and jewelry artisans and dependents can now finally access quality healthcare of choice, and with the support of the global industry the council believes it will be able to scale up operations and positively impact many more lives.
The Indian industry provides employment to more than 5 million people. It is the world’s largest diamond cutting and polishing center, with 93 percent of all polished diamonds by volume being processed there.
The ready availability of skilled workers is a key strength of the Indian diamond sector, and has been a primary factor in the country’s rise to dominance in just a few decades. However, with economic success providing a range of alternative job opportunities to the children of existing employees, the presence of this enormous resource pool could no longer be taken for granted.
Realizing that there is distinct possibility of a severe shortage of skilled workers in the years ahead, GJEPC understood that it needed to take measures that would secure both its current and future workforces. This it believed could be done by developing an industry-wide social security blanket, in the form of healthcare, education and more.
India’s labor-intensive diamond, gem and jewelry industries provide employment to some 5 million people, and process 93 percent of the world’s polished diamonds by volume.
Launch of ‘Swasthya Ratna’ Health Initiative
Some 90 percent of India’s gem and jewelry sector is made up of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), with the bulk of the workforce employed by small units that function on a job-lot basis. This frequently makes it difficult for them to get access to quality healthcare for their employees.
In India, public healthcare is free and subsidized only for those who are below the poverty line. The public health sector encompasses 18 percent of total outpatient care and 44 percent of total inpatient care. Middle and higher-income individuals are generally required to find other solutions.
To help bring as many as possible diamond workers into a quality healthcare system, GJEPC initiated a group policy called Swasthya Ratna (Gem of Health), to provide insurance to the workforce.
Starting on March 1, 2015, GJEPC called on its member companies to enroll their employees and their families. It worked with an insurance company to create a flexible scheme with different options related to family size, nature of benefits, etc. The premiums offered were affordable, but the GJEPC also subsidized the venture by contributing a percentage of the premium amount.
Accessible from all parts of India, Swasthya Ratna was simultaneously launched in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and other key clusters of the gem and jewelry industry.
To promote participation in the program, GJEPC created dedicated help desks at its head office and regional offices, allowing members to walk in and obtain assistance. Via the organization’s website (https://gjepc.org/), members can enroll online. The website also provides details about claims procedures, network hospitals, claim status and other frequently asked questions.
The response to Swasthya Ratna scheme has been phenomenal, with companies rushing to provide health coverage for their factory workers and office staff. To date it has covered more than 500,000 lives, and the total claim disbursements equal at Rs.1.5 billion ($21 million).
Parichay Card and Swasthya Kosh Health Fund Programs
Mapping India’s vocational skill base has been a major focus for the two successive governments led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which have undertaken qualitative and quantitative analyses of the national workforce.
In broad alignment with the government program, GJEPC has initiated the next phase of its social security scheme, collecting data from the entire pool of workers in the industry. In early 2019, it launched the Parichay Card (Identity Card) initiative to create a database of gem and jewelry workers.
The Parichay Card, the type of social security card being issued by the GJEPC for all workers in the Indian jewelry sector.
In addition to creating an employment exchange for unorganized workers, the Parichay Card will ensure that social benefits provided by the government are auditable and will reach the right target base of workers in the gem and jewelry sector.
The card ensures valid authentication for social security purposes and helps workers with employment opportunities, access to financial support from institutions and provides better healthcare services. The enrolment of workers is being done through registered gem and jewelry associations.
Officially launched on March 1, 2019, the Parichay Card not only gives the workers a valid proof of their employment or identity, but also makes them eligible for various schemes and initiatives of GJEPC.
Around 42 gem and jewelry associations from all over India have already enrolled for the scheme and 260,000 cards are in the process of being issued. The Council aims to distribute 1 million Parichay Cards by March 2020, and 5 million cards over the coming three years, covering the entire workforce of the gem and jewelry industry.
All Parichay Card holders are entitled to enroll for a specially designed and highly subsidized health insurance policy, called Swasthya Kosh (Health Fund). Unlike the Swasthya Ratna, it enables individual workers to be registered, rather than through companies that have signed onto the scheme. The Parichay Card holders need to pay only 25 percent of the premium and the remaining 75 percent will paid from the fund created by the GJEPC.
With such a large proportion of polished diamonds being processed in India, Council is seeking donations from the gem and jewelry industry all over the world in order to provide for unattached or contracted workers who are not represented by any health provider.
The GJEPC has contributed Rs. 30 million ($420,000 million) to launch the fund and is reaching out to the industry and the Government of India to raise at least Rs. 5 ($70 million) to cover the entire workforce of the industry.
“The GJEPC has plans to put in place a transparent audit system for the Parichay Card, Swashthya Ratna and Swasthya Kosh initiatives,” explained Sabyasachi Ray, Executive Director of GJEPC. “Our ultimate goal is to provide all the workforce with quality healthcare of choice and we hope that the industry will continue to support this initiative. It is the best way of showing our respect, admiration, and support for our artisans and workers.”
The GJEPC’s Swasthya Kosh fund is accepting contributions from individuals or companies in India or overseas, who may be direct or indirect beneficiaries of the gem and jewelry artisans of India and now wish to contribute in a meaningful way. For more information, visit https://www.gjepc.org/ or contact firstname.lastname@example.org / + 91 22 2654 4600