India seeks accord to avoid dual social security taxation

Raising the issue with the US Labour Secretary Hilda Solis here on Thursday, Indian Labour and Employment Minister Mallikarjun Kharge pointed out that Indian professionals in the US were paying huge amounts as social security contributions without being able to draw any benefits as they were not allowed to stay long enough to qualify.

It would be mutually beneficial to work out a suitable reciprocal arrangement to avoid the hardship of double payment of social security, he said, according to Indian officials.

The US has concluded such international Social Security agreements, often called "Totalisation agreements," with 24 countries to eliminate dual Social Security taxation and help fill gaps in benefit protection for workers who have divided their careers between the US another country.

Indian ambassador to the US Meera Shankar, Indian Labour Secretary P.C.  Chaturvedi, US Deputy Under Secretary Sandra Polaski and Senior Advisor Sudha Haley also attended the meeting with Solis.

Kharge who was here to attend the G-20 Labour Ministers meeting also discussed with Solis the impact of the economic downturn on employment and spoke about some of the key measures that the two governments had taken to mitigate the social impact of the crisis.

They agreed that policies for providing social protection also created jobs, Indian officials said. The two Ministers agreed to follow up on the recommendations developed by the G20 ministers .

They also discussed future bilateral cooperation, including ways that the two countries can share technical expertise on a range of issues, including skills development.

Minister Kharge congratulated his counterpart on the initiative and leadership shown by her in organising the meeting and in bringing them together and fostering discussions that had led to valuable inputs to their leaders in the shape of the Recommendations of the meeting.

Kharge invited Secretary Solis to visit India and see some of the social programmes that the Ministry of Labour and Employment was implementing. Solis thanked Kharge for his participation in the G-20 meeting, which had been appreciated by all participants.

At the meeting itself Solis had praised India's ambitious job guarantee scheme for the rural poor as "innovative and dynamic" and said US hoped to learn from it. The achievement of India is laudable as these schemes had succeeded in reaching the masses in remote geographical areas, she said.

Kharge made a detailed presentation on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), which guarantees 100 days' employment to a member of rural poor family, and the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, a health insurance for very poor families.

Kharge's presentation generated discussion among the labour ministers who wanted to learn more about these two schemes which had touched the lives of such a large number of beneficiaries, Indian officials said.

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