Section 2 (78) of the Code on Social Security, 2020 defines social security as a framework of measures intended to offer a safety net for individuals and families experiencing financial hardships due to specific situations like old age, illness, disability, or unemployment.

The goal of social security systems is to shield individuals from poverty and deprivation, ensuring they maintain a minimum standard of living. Due to the inherent insecurity of life, society yearns for stability. Social security, a fundamental human right, encompasses various forms of financial assistance provided by the government to its citizens.

There is a link between social contract theory and social security. According to social contract theory, individuals relinquish certain freedoms and rights to the state in return for protection and security.

Similarly, through social security, individuals allocate a portion of their income to the state or designated social security programs in exchange for financial support and protection against unforeseen circumstances such as old age, disability, illness, or unemployment.

Thus, it is the state’s duty to ensure the well-being of its citizens and to mitigate the risks and uncertainties of life.

In this article, we will delve into the meaning of social security and its fundamental aspects.

Key Elements of Social Security

The below aspects are provided by the Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention (No. 102) adopted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 1952:

1.     Medical Care

  • Medical care is a crucial component of social security, ensuring that individuals have access to essential healthcare services. This encompasses preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services aimed at maintaining and enhancing individuals’ health and well-being.
  • Through social security schemes, beneficiaries receive comprehensive medical care that includes doctor consultations, hospitalization, medical treatments, surgeries, and medications.

2. Sickness Benefits

Sickness benefit provides financial support to individuals who are unable to work due to temporary illness or incapacity. It aims to compensate for the loss of income during the period of sickness and helps individuals meet their basic needs during their recovery.

The benefit is typically provided for a specific duration or until the individual is fit to resume work

3. Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment benefits offer financial assistance to workers who have lost their jobs involuntarily. It provides a safety net during unemployment, helping individuals meet their basic needs while searching for new employment opportunities.

Unemployment benefits may be provided for a limited duration and are usually subject to specific eligibility criteria.

4. Old Age Benefit

Old age benefits, commonly known as pensions, provide financial support to individuals after they reach retirement age. These benefits are designed to ensure a stable income for senior citizens who have ceased their active working lives.

Old age benefits improve retirees’ quality of life and provide a sense of security during their retirement years.

5. Employment Injury Benefit

Employment injury benefits are provided to workers who sustain injuries or contract diseases during their employment. This aspect of social security offers compensation for medical expenses, rehabilitation, and income support during the period of recovery. It helps workers cope with the financial burden caused by work-related injuries or illnesses.

6. Family Benefit

Family benefits aim to support families and dependents of workers by providing financial assistance in specific circumstances. These benefits may include financial support for dependent children, single parents, or low-income families. The objective is to enhance families’ well-being and ensure dependents’ social and economic security.

7. Maternity Benefit

Maternity benefits support women during pregnancy and childbirth. These benefits typically include paid leave during the prenatal and postnatal periods, ensuring that pregnant women can take time off from work to care for themselves and their newborns without financial hardship. Maternity benefits contribute to promoting maternal and child health.

8. Invalidity Benefit

Invalidity benefits offer financial support to individuals who become permanently or severely disabled and cannot work. This aspect of social security ensures that individuals with disabilities have access to financial assistance to cover their living expenses and medical needs.

9. Survivor’s Benefit

Survivor’s benefits provide financial support to a deceased worker’s family members or dependents. These benefits offer income support and financial security to surviving spouses, children, or other eligible beneficiaries after the death of the primary breadwinner.


Social security includes a range of essential benefits and support mechanisms, such as medical care, sickness benefits, unemployment benefits, old-age pensions, family benefits, maternity benefits, and more. These provisions are crucial for promoting individuals’ well-being and protection during various life circumstances, contributing to a more inclusive and compassionate society. Social security serves as both a protection and a preventive barrier against distressing situations, provided by society to each of its members. Society acts as a guardian and caretaker, addressing individuals’ needs based on the available resources.

Khushboo Handa (legal intern)

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