December 18, 2017 Print

Trivandrum, Kerala, India — March 10, 2017 —  Woman selling earthen pots and ladles by the roadside. Photo: AjayTvm / Shutterstock.com

Current labor regulations in the southern Indian state of Kerala are shaped by the Shops and Commercial Establishments Act of 1960, which has demonstrated itself to be outdated, inefficient, and discriminatory. Center for Public Policy Research (CPPR) is located in Kochi, a major port city in the state of Kerala. Its Model Shops and Establishments Act project analyzed suggestions put forward in a recent bill amending the Act and proposed CPPR’s own amendments. With its study and resulting draft bill, which it presented to the State Labour Department, CPPR is attempting to increase employment opportunities for women and improve Kerala’s Ease of Doing Business Ranking.

“The project on Model Shops and Establishments Act is aimed to amend the provisions in the existing Act of Kerala and expects to bring a noticeable change in easing up regulations for doing business in Kerala,” said Sarah John, project associate for CPPR. “The proposed amendments are expected to set the stage for amendments in similar lines in other labour laws and slowly bring about a considerable increase in job opportunities available for women.”

CPPR has prepared a draft of the Model Shops and Establishments Bill based on its findings, which is in its final stages and will be submitted before the end of December 2017.

Major proposals put forward by CPPR’s draft bill include:

  • Tapping the state’s potential for night-time tourism by removing restrictions on opening and closing time of establishments.
  • Removing institutional gender discrimination by lifting restrictions on women to work after 7 p.m.
  • Implementing an online State Labour Department portal to ease the registration process for new businesses.
  • Setting up compliance helplines at district levels to collect data for future policy decisions and reduce information costs.

With these small, concrete changes, CPPR hopes to adjust Kerala’s outdated labor laws. “The proposed amendments will be apposite to meet the present-day challenges and needs of the business community by making laws more flexible and simple, as redundant and rigid labour laws continue to be a deterrent for the business environment,” continued John.

CPPR has also made a video incorporating the views of various stakeholders and highlighting the need to bring about changes. The CPPR team has also written 17 articles in various print and online media platforms arguing the merits of the proposed suggestions and how it will bring about a substantive change in improving the Ease of Doing Business rankings of the state.

“CPPR intends to provoke the society, bureaucrats, and the state for a change in mindsets and approach to bring a change in the status quo and vouches that infrastructure and public transportation need to be improved, rather than limiting the freedom of citizens and the market by law,” John concluded.

Center for Public Policy Research is a recipient of Atlas Network’s Liberating Enterprise to Achieve Prosperity grant, which supports think tanks with ambitious but achievable plans to improve the public policy and regulatory environment in their countries, particularly in relation to limits on enterprise and entrepreneurship as measured in the Doing Business Index.