Small Employer's Welfare Administration
This is an activity concerned with the interests of the small employers of Auroville like domestic households, gardens, nurseries, community kitchens and their non-Aurovilian employees. The service holds daily office and runs an employment exchange for the local non-Aurovilians, arranges accident insurance and is active in conflict resolution when required.
At the initiative of some Aurovilians, SEWA was created in 1994 to look after the interests of non-Aurovilian workers in the 'unorganised' sector of Auroville, employed by individuals or small units. Few of the units employ more than ten workers, and most employ as few as one or two. Because none of these workers would normally be entitled to a government pension or retirement pension or programme, SEWA manages a Retirement Fund for them and also arranges accident insurance, handles conflict resolution, and runs a job service. There are also plans to promote workers' education.
Retirement Fund programme
The Retirement Fund programme was established using the model of Provident Fund programmes in government and public institutions. However, unlike the government programme, the SEWA programme is more flexible, and can easily be adjusted to suit individual workers' needs.
During 1999-2000 important changes have occurred in government policy. As a consequence the government-run Employees Provident Fund programme has been made applicable to all Auroville units, and many employees who were covered by the SEWA RF programme are now covered by this scheme. This is generally to the benefit of the workers, in so far as the government scheme is more comprehensive and includes a pension plan. SEWA has agreed to the request of these workers to close their accounts and return their money. This process is going on. At the same time, privately employed workers such as house workers, gardeners and watchmen continue to be on the SEWA Retirement Fund programme, and new members continue to join the scheme as they perceive the benefits that SEWA offers.
SEWA arranges accident insurance for those workers who desire it, or whose employers want it, through one of the nationalised companies in the insurance business. At present about 150 workers are covered through SEWA.
SEWA also runs a local 'employment exchange' for non-Aurovilian workers who are looking for jobs in Auroville, and does conflict resolution work between workers and employers. As conflict situations do arise from time to time, SEWA is becoming a trusted name among Auroville employers and employees alike, who look to SEWA not only to help resolve issues but also to provide reliable information about wage rates, holidays, and other worker benefits.
During the year 2000 a major new development took place. SEWA has been able to conduct a comprehensive survey of the socio-economic situation of Auroville workers, thanks to receiving a grant from Stichting De Zaaier, Netherlands. The survey is a joint venture between SEWA and the Social Research Centre in New Creation. The work was done under the professional guidance of Professor Gunasekharan of the Department of Sociology, Pondicherry University, who prepared the questionnaire in consultation with SEWA. Special temporary staff were recruited and trained for the work. The survey was begun in February 2000 and completed in November 2000. Data can now be downloaded as .pdf.zip.
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