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Conceptual Framework of Labour Welfare

Rao, S. V. (2015).

1.0 Introduction: Labour welfare is one of the major determinants of industrial relations. The development of community and society depends only on the development of labours. The importance of labour welfare work is beyond the stage of debate and is recognized as an integral part of an industrial tradition in all industrially advanced countries. Labour welfare is a vital part of business organisation and management now-a-days attaches more important to the human angle. It increases productivity, as well as the productive efficiency of the workers and induces in them a new spirit of self-realization and consciousness. The labour welfare scheme may be regarded as a wise investment.

1.1 Concept of Labour Welfare:

The term welfare suggests many ideas, meanings, and connotations, such as the state of well-being, health, happiness, prosperity and the development of human resources. The concept of welfare can be approached from various angles. Welfare has been described as a total concept. It is a desirable state of existence involving physical, mental, moral and emotional well-being. All these four elements together constitute the structure of welfare on which its totality is based. Labour Welfare

The social concept of welfare implies the welfare of man, his family, and his community. There is the interconnection of these three aspects, in the sense that all the three work together or individually supplement one another, in a three-dimensional approach, each serving as ends and means.

Welfare is called a relative concept, for it is related to time and space. Changes in it have an impact on the system of welfare as well. As welfare is growing and dynamic, the welfare potential changes, as a result of which its content keeps on varying and has to keep pace with the changing times. Also, the characteristics of welfare vary, for it depends largely on the development of a nation in all fields. Its meaning and components, therefore, differ from country to country and from place to place.

Welfare is also a positive concept. In order to establish a minimum level of welfare, it demands certain minimum acceptable conditions of existence, biologically and socially. This positive nature calls for the setting-up of the minimum desirable standards necessary for certain components of welfare, such as health, food, clothing, housing, medical assistance, insurance, education, recreation, job security, and so on. Thus it has to specify the starting point for building levels of welfare.

However, labour welfare has both positive and negative sides associated with it. On the positive side, it deals with the provision of opportunities which enable the worker and his family to lead a good life, socially and personally, as well as help him adjust to social transition in his work like, family life and social life. On the negative side, it functions in order to neutralize the baneful effects of large scale industrialization and provides a counterbalance to the undesirable social consequences and labour problems that have evolved in the process of this transition.

The word labour means any productive activity. In a broader sense, therefore, the physical, social, psychological and general well-being of the working population. Welfare work in any industry aims or should aim at improving the working and living conditions of workers and their families.

The concept of labour welfare, however, is flexible, elastic and differs from time to time, region to region, industry to industry and country to country, depending upon the value system, level of education, social customs, degree of industrialization and the general standard of the socio-economic development of people. It also relates to the political situation in a country. Further, it depends upon the kinds of problems with which society is confronted as well as on the structure of the industry. It is moulded according to the age-group, sex, socio-cultural background, marital status, economic status and educational level of the employees in various industries. This nature of the concept of labour welfare makes it very difficult for us to give a precise, all-inclusive single definition of the phrase.

The concept of labour welfare originated in the desire for a humanitarian approach to the sufferings of the working class. Later, it became a utilization philosophy which worked as a motivating force for labour and for those who were interested in it.

1.2 Interpretations of Labour Welfare:

Labour welfare has been defined in various ways, though unfortunately, no single definition has found universal acceptance.

The Oxford Dictionary defines labour welfare as “efforts to make life worth living of worker” Another definition implies that welfare is fundamentally an attitude of mind on the part of management, influencing the method by which management activities are undertaken’. The emphasis obviously is on the “Attitude of mind”.

In the Encyclopedia of Social Sciences welfare is defined as “the voluntary efforts of the employers to establish within the existing industrial system, working and sometimes living and cultural conditions of the employees beyond what is required by law, the customers of the industry and the conditions of the market.”

Yet another definition is “Anything done for the comfort and improvement, intellectual and social, of the employees over and above the wages paid, which is not a necessity of the industry.'”

Labour welfare is also understood to mean “such services, facilities and amenities, which may be established in, or in the vicinity of, undertakings to enable persons employed therein to perform their work in healthy and congenial surroundings and to provide them with amenities conducive to good health and good morals.'”

Some prefer to include under welfare activities, “anything done for the intellectual, physical, moral and economic betterment of the workers, whether by employers, by Government or by other agencies, over and above what is laid down by law or what is normally expected as part of the contractual benefits for which their workers may have bargained.'”

It is for the “benefit of their employees over and above the minimum standard of working conditions fixed by the Factories Act and over and above the provision of social legislation providing against accident, old age, unemployment and sickness.'”

labour welfare is nothing but “such services, facilities and amenities as adequate canteens, rest and recreation facilities, sanitary and medical facilities, arrangements for travel to and from the work for the accommodation of the workers employed at a distance from their homes, and such other services, amenities and facilities, including social security measures, as contribute to an improvement in the conditions under which workers are employed!”

Here, it may be pointed out that “social security is considered to be one of the important aspects of labour welfare’. These services are “rendered to workers and their families by an industrial enterprise with the purpose of raising their moral, material, social and cultural levels and so that they may adjust to better life.'”

The whole field of welfare is said to be one “in which much can be done to combat the sense of frustration of the industrial workers, to relieve them of personal and family worries, to improve their health, to afford them means of self expression, to offer them some sphere in which they can excel others, and to help them to a wider conception of life.m”

Thus, it would appear as if “a series of sharply divergent opinions exist on the motives and merits of industrial welfare work.'”

A significant definition describes labour welfare work as “the voluntary effort of the employer to improve the living and working conditions of his employees; the underlying assumption, of course, being that ‘the first essentials to the welfare of the employees are steady work, a fair wage and reasonable hours of labour.’ That the employer has a further obligation and should not attempt to substitute welfare work for better wages and shorter hours is clear from its added pronouncement that the spirit of the age has thrown upon the employers, duties involving a proper regard for the comfort, health, safety and well-being of the employees”.

Anyhow, the meaning or connotation of labour welfare “must necessarily be elastic, bearing a some-what different interpretation in one country to from another, according to different social circumstances, the degree of industrialization and the educational development of the worker.”

When we go through the above definitions, it is apparent that none is complete or comprehensive. There is no precise, definite outline or demarcation in this subject. More often that many of them gives rise to ambiguity and overlap in certain areas of action. However, what is definite is that labour welfare promotes the well-being of workers in a variety of ways. Any kind of voluntary service will come under the purview of labour welfare if it aims at helping the worker to work better and in more congenial surroundings, and also to live better in a more meaningful manner, physically, socially, morally, economically and intellectually.

1.3 Labour Welfare and Social Work:

It has to be noted that, in one respect, welfare work is fundamentally distinct from social work. The latter “implies no relation between employer and employee, but rather suggest the activities of a state department or a volunteer organisation.'” Social work reaches the entire society, whereas labour welfare work, which is mostly the work of an employer, provides coverage only for industrial society. Social work offers advice and assistance in the solution of individual or family problems. Labour welfare work aims at solving the problems related to adjustment and corresponding activities. However, though labour welfare is not entirely social work, it is a resultant area of the latter and make use of the scientific techniques and body of knowledge which have been evolved in the science of social work, particularly in the solution of various problems where the human factor plays a predominant role. Labour welfare thus becomes a specialized branch of social work, offering assistance to a special group of people consisting of industrial labourers and their families.

1.4 Theories of Labour Welfare.

Seven theories, constituting the conceptual framework of labour welfare, have so far been outlined’. These are:-

1.4.1 The Police theory of Labour Welfare:

This is based on the contention that a minimum standard of welfare is necessary for labourers. Here, assumption is that without compulsion, periodical supervision and fear of the punishment, employers will not provide even the minimum welfare facilities for workers. Apparently, this theory assumes that man is selfish and self-centered, and always tries to achieve his own ends, even at the cost of the welfare of others. In this theory, the emphasis is unfortunately on fear and not on the spirit of welfare which should be the guiding factor.

1.4.2 The Religious Theory:

This is based on the concept that man is essentially “a religious animal”. Even today, many acts of man are related to religious sentiments and beliefs. These religious feelings sometimes prompt an employer to take up welfare activities in the expectation of future benefit, either in this life or in eternal life. The religious basis of welfare, however, cannot be rational. It is neither universal nor continuous.

1.4.3 Philanthropic Theory.

This theory is based on man’s love for mankind. “In Greek, Philos means loving and anthropes means man.” So instinctive urge by which he strives to remove the suffering of others and promote their well-being. This drive may be a rather powerful one and may impel him to perform noble sacrifices. This theory thus depends largely on man’s love or other, and therefore cannot be universal or continuous.

1.4.4 Trusteeship Theory.

This is also called the paternalistic Theory of Labour Welfare, according to which “the industrialist or employer holds the total industrial estate, properties, and profits accruing from them in trust”. In other words, he uses it for himself, for the benefit of his workers, and also for society. Here, too, labour welfare depends on the initiative of the top management, since it has no legal sanction, its value is related to the moral conscience of the industrialist.

1.4.5 The Placating Theory.

This theory is based on the fact that labour groups are becoming demanding and militant, and are more conscious of their rights and privileges than ever before. Their demand for higher wages and better standards cannot be ignored. Psychologically, this theory is unsound, though it has often been acted upon to secure the workers’ co-operation.

1.4.6 Public Relations Theory.

This theory provides the basis for an atmosphere of goodwill between labour and management and also between management and the public. Labour welfare programmes, under this theory, work as a sort of an advertisement and help an industrialist to build up good and healthy public relations. Here welfare may tend to become a publicity stunt. Nevertheless, these programmes do improve industrial relations.

1.4.7 The Functional Theory.

This is also called the Efficiency Theory. Here welfare work is used as a means to secure, preserve and develop the efficiency and productivity of labour. It is obvious that if an employer takes good care of his workers, they will tend to become more efficient and will thereby step up production. This theory is a reflection of contemporary support for labour welfare. It can work well if both the parties have an identical aim in views that is, higher production through better welfare.

1.5 Principles of Labour Welfare.

Labour welfare is dependent on certain basic principles, which must be kept in mind and properly followed to achieve a successful implementation of welfare programmes. The Underlying rules of Labour welfare are explained under the following points:

  • The labour welfare activities should pervade the entire hierarchy of an organisation. Management should be welfare-oriented at every level.
  • The employer should not bargain labour welfare as a substitute for wages or monetary incentives. In other words, the workers have a right to adequate wages in addition to welfare measures.
  • The employer should look after the welfare of his employees as a matter of social obligation. The Constitution of India, in its Directive Principles of State Policy, also emphasizes this aspect of labour welfare.
  • Labour Welfare must aim at helping employees to help themselves in the long run. This principle of self-help will enable them to become more responsible and more efficient.
  • There should be proper co-ordination, harmony and integration of all labour welfare services in an undertaking.
  • The labour welfare work of an organisation must be administratively viable and essentially development oriented.
  • The management should ensure co-operation and active participation of unions and workers in formulating and implementing labour welfare programmes.
  • There should be periodical assessment or evaluation of welfare measure and necessary timely improvements on the basis of feedback.

1.6 Benefits of Welfare Activities:

  • Promotion of sound industrial relation by creating a feeling among employees that they are in no way ignored by the management, so as to increase their co-operation and reduce unrest and conflict which ultimately establish industrial harmony and peace.
  • Improvement in the workers capacity and efficiency thus leads to higher productivity and reduced wastage and inefficiency in their part.
  • Motivating employees to remain with the organisation as its dependable permanent workforce by reducing labour turnover and absenteeism with enhanced interest in the job.
  • Imbibing in the employees a sense of commitment and loyalty towards their enterprise
  • Improvement in the employees health and morality by motivating them to be away from alcoholism, gambling, prostitution, criminal activities in slums and so on.
  • Improvement in the motivation and morale of workers which in turn create a sense of responsibility, self confidence and self respect in them.
  • Promotional and social advantage through higher industrial efficiency, harmony and industrial democracy with a satisfied family life, higher standard of living and good status in the society.

Original Reference Article:

  • Rao, S. V. (2015). Labour welfare measures in selected cement units of andhra pradesh a comparative study. Acharya Nagarjuna University, Retrieved from: http://hdl.handle.net/10603/188174
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