Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-dhan (PM-SYM)- a voluntary and contributory pension scheme for workers of the unorganised sector – is currently undergoing third-party evaluation by the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA) to identify the hurdles in its implementation, labour ministry officials told the parliamentary standing committee on labour last month.

Responding to a query by the House panel regarding the reasons for the dismal performance of the scheme, officials said that the long-term financial commitment required by the beneficiaries, the sudden outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the presence Atal Pension Yojana covering unorganised workers and the provision of free pension by states like Rajasthan and Haryana are some of the reasons behind the poor performance of the scheme.

“Currently, the ministry has appointed the IIPA for carrying out a third-party evaluation of the scheme to identify the hurdles in scheme implementation. Scheme guidelines will be revised accordingly to cover the maximum unorganised workers. The final report is awaited,” labour officials added.

Against an enrollment target of 10 million beneficiaries in each of the financial years starting 2020-21, only 522,868 workers were enrolled in the scheme in the past three years till December 2022.

PM-SYM was launched in February 2019, with workers in the age group of 18-40 years and a monthly income is Rs 15000 or less, and not under the ambit of other social security schemes like Employee Provident Fund/ Employee State Insurance Corporation eligible for the scheme.

Under the scheme, 50 per cent monthly contribution is payable by the beneficiary and an equal contribution is paid by the central government. The Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India is the fund manager of this scheme. Overall, 4.4 million beneficiaries have enrolled under the scheme.

Similarly, against the budgeted Rs 350 crore in FY23, only a meagre sum of Rs 93 crore could be utilised by December last year.

Besides, the committee was also informed that the National Pension Scheme for Traders and Self-Employed Persons (NPS Traders) – a voluntary and contributory pension scheme for traders in the age group of 18-40 years with an annual turnover not exceeding Rs.1.5 crore – is also undergoing an evaluation by the IIPA.

“We are looking at options of merging this scheme with PM-SYM because these are self-employed people who are basically a single proprietor kind of entity or small traders. Mostly they confuse the scheme with PM-SYM,” labour officials said.

As on Dec 2022, merely 4,979 beneficiaries were enrolled under the scheme for traders during FY23 against the target of 250,000 beneficiaries, and only 50,000 beneficiaries have enrolled since its inception.