The origins of social security in India

Part of the Social Policy beyond the West Hilary 2019 seminar series.

This talk will present material from the early chapters of a book project on welfare and capitalist development in India. These chapters look at the origins of India’s social security regime for industrial workers. India adopted employer/employee financed health insurance for industrial workers in 1948. This may be considered surprising when compared both to other British colonies, and to contemporaneous developments in other large, decentralised polities such as the United States where regional interests undermined the passage of federation-wide social security legislation. In the talk, I will look at how a decentralised approach to social security within constitutional structures of limited self-government in the late colonial period gave way to support – including from many employers - for a centralised health insurance scheme in India which was developed during the Second World War and enacted in 1948.  International factors (including membership of the International Labour Organisation and publication of the Beveridge Report) helped to push sickness insurance onto the agenda. But to understand why this emerged as one of the first legislative acts of the post-Independence Indian government, we also need to look at the interests of local capital and political actors in stabilising the workforce and regulating internal competition in the context of the crafting of a national Indian market. The talk will conclude by considering some of the implications of these historical developments for understanding contemporary India’s welfare regime.

No booking required, but please arrive early to avoid disappointment.