KINGSTON — Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Pearnel Charles is appealing to all persons earning an income to contribute to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), in order to be able to support themselves after retirement.
Mr. Charles, who was addressing the NIS’ 45th anniversary customer appreciation function at the Ministry’s Heroes Circle division, today April 4, pointed out that some persons are not receiving NIS benefits, as they refused to contribute when they had an opportunity to do so.
“NIS is not a tax, it’s not a giveaway, it is an investment. Small though it may be from you, some of you are now collecting 20 times what you have put in. If we add up how much you invest, and (investment of) the employer, you will see how much more you have been getting. We are appealing to all persons from every quarter to join the National Insurance Scheme,” he said.
Mr. Charles pointed out that currently, the life expectancy has been moved to 71 for men, and 77 for women; therefore the strain on the NIS will be much more than was expected. He said the Ministry will be seeking to get the support of the church and other organisations in encouraging more persons to make NIS contributions.
Meanwhile, the Minister said he was satisfied that the Fund, which now stands at $66 billion, is being properly managed, with over 95,000 persons now qualified for benefits.
In his remarks, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Alvin McIntosh stated that the NIS represents the most sustainable social security scheme in the region, with safeguards in place to ensure its viability.
He said persons should think about retirement needs, not just when they are approaching retirement, but from the first day they enter the workforce. “Eventually that day (retirement) must come. We have to make sure that people contribute to the scheme and there are certain categories of persons out there that we want to come in – people who operate their own accounts, like dressmakers, hairdressers and farmers,” he said.
Therefore, Mr. McIntosh said the Ministry will be mounting an “aggressive programme” to include these persons, as there are provisions for everyone to contribute.
Providing the gathering of pensioners and other stakeholders with an overview of the NIS, Acting Director of Social Security, Denzil Thorpe, explained that the NIS provides some 12 benefits, in addition to the retirement benefit, which is the most popular.
They include: invalidity benefit, which is paid to persons who have contributed, but are unable to work as a result of illness or injury; the widow or widower’s benefit, which is paid to the spouse of a deceased contributor; an orphan’s benefit, which is provided when both parents have died, and one or both have made contributions; and a special child’s benefit, which is paid when the mother has died, and the father is unknown.
There is a maternity allowance for domestic workers, as the Maternity Leave Act omits domestic workers; employment injury benefits, which include disablement pension; employment injury death benefit and payment of a portion of medical expenses. Persons may also receive a stipend for the time that they are off the job on sick leave.
There is also the special anniversary pension, which was introduced in 1991, on the 25th anniversary of the scheme. “That was introduced for persons who would have already been 60 and not able to contribute to the scheme at the time,” Mr. Thorpe outlined.
Meanwhile, a funeral grant is paid upon the death of an NIS contributor or pensioner, or their spouse. The most recently introduced benefit is the NIGold health plan, which is a health insurance plan administered by Sagicor Life Jamaica, with benefits including visits to the doctor, prescription drugs, and diagnostic services.
By ALPHEA SAUNDERS, JIS Reporter