At a time when the country was reeling under the deadly Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent job loss, at least 71.01 lakh employees' provident fund (EPF) accounts were closed during the April-December period in 2020.
On the other hand, withdrawals increased by over 33% to Rs 73,498 crore during the first nine months of 2020 as compared with Rs 55,125 crore in 2019, Labour and employment minister Santosh Gangwar told Lok Sabha on March 15, reported News18.
"The number of Employees' Provident Fund (EPF) accounts closed during the period from April to December 2020 is 71,01,929," the minister said. The number of the closure of EPF account in April-December 2019 stood at 66,66,563.
The closure of EPF accounts was cited to job loss, switching jobs, among other reasons. The minister stated that the number of EPF accounts with partial withdrawal also increased to 1,27,72,120 in April-December 2020 from 54,42,884 in the same period in 2019.
Total withdrawals from EPF account in April-December 2020 increased to Rs 73,498 crore from Rs 55,125 crore in the corresponding period a year ago.
In another reply to the House, the minister said that under the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Rozgar Yojna (ABRY), 1.83 lakh establishments have been registered covering 15.30 Lakh employees till February 28, 2021. The scheme aims to incentivize employers for the creation of employment opportunities along with social security benefits and restoration of loss of employment during the pandemic.
At least Rs 186.34 crore has been released under the scheme till February 28, 2021, the minister said.
This scheme is implemented through the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) and aims to reduce the financial burden of the employers and encourages them to hire more workers.
Under ABRY, the Government is bearing for a period of two years, both the employees' share (12% of wages) and employers' share (12% of wages) of contribution payable. The minister also said the EPFO has invested Rs 27,532.39 crore in exchange-traded funds (ETF) till February 28, 2021.
In a separate reply to the House, the minister stated, "The number of claims settled by Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) during the lockdown period (i.e March 25, 2020, to May 31, 2020) was 31,01,818."