Organizing Old Age Pensions for India’s Informal Workers: A Case Study of a Sector-Driven Approach

Working Papers

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Asia Health Policy Program working paper # 47

April 3, 2018

ahppwp cvr47


About 88 percent of India’s total labor force is composed of informal (officially labeled “unorganized”) workers. As many as 388 million such workers lack old age income security by way of a pension system. The Atal Pension Yojana (APY) is the latest contributory, national-level old age pension scheme for unorganized workers, with an entry age of 18–40 years. In other words, all current unorganized workers above the age of 40 are excluded. How could a national pension system viably guarantee equal pension benefits to all current unorganized workers? This paper considers how such a system might work by offering a case study of a non-contributory pension scheme for building and other construction workers in Karnataka State, India. The results indicate that this state-level pension scheme, fully funded by sector-specific receipts, is financially viable and sustainable with high levels of coverage and adequacy. The robustness of these results is shown via sensitivity analyses of discount rates, inflation rates, and growth rates of specific purpose tax collections. Additional analyses outline the scenarios under which pension benefits could be extended to all informal workers in the sector studied.

Keywords: Informal sector workers, pensions, India, Atal Pension Yojana

JEL codes: H55, J18

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