Gov’t to Expand Social Security Net


Minister of Labour and Social Security, Pearnel Charles, has said that the government will be expanding its social security net to include citizens over 75 years, who are not benefiting from existing programmes, as well as the nation’s poorest families.
The Minister, who was speaking at a meeting with representatives of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions (JCTU) on Thursday (Sept. 20), gave a commitment to continue to push for reforms to the pension system, while indicating an interest in the social protection programme being advocated by the JCTU, which will provide pension and health care benefits to all Jamaican workers.
“We have already started to look at pension for some people,” he noted during the meeting held at the JCTU’s Hope Boulevard headquarters in Kingston.
According to Mr. Charles, a number of persons, by virtue of the fact that they were unemployed when the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) was established or had not qualified on the basis that they were beyond the required age to contribute, are now not receiving a pension.
“None of those persons are now receiving pension except where government instruction had brought on some of them. I have requested that an audit be done. Anybody over 75 who is not now receiving pension, I’ll be proposing to present that before Cabinet,” he told the meeting, noting that the age limit will be adjusted to accommodate persons found to be in need by the Ministry’s survey.
He indicated that no further disbursements will be made to new business under the NIS fund, until an actuarial report on the use of the funds has been made available to Cabinet. The findings in this report, he said, will be taken to Parliament.
The Labour Minister in the meantime, said that assistance will also be extended to children, who qualify for support under the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) but were not beneficiaries. Minister of State, Andrew Gallimore, has been given responsibility to review and upgrade PATH as well as the pension programme.
Lloyd Goodleigh, General Secretary of the JCTU, underscored the urgency with which the government needs to tackle the pensions system, adding that many in the trained workforce had no incentive to stay and work in Jamaica in light of the unattractive pension scheme. “Unless we get a social protection system, nobody will stay in Jamaica,” he said. “We want a social protection system that the Jamaican worker pays for, that when he retires .that he gets an income that he can live on. That includes aspects of access to medical care, access to health and safety,” he pointed out.
Chief Technical Director in the Ministry and Chairman of the Task Force on Social Security, Faith Innerarity, in providing an update of the pension reform programme now underway, informed that “we have done the preliminary process, including some assessments, in terms of a situational analysis and a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, and we will be moving on to other things.” A meeting was scheduled for Friday (Sept. 21).
She urged the trade unions to take up an invitation to sit on the Task Force, noting that the forum will be the best place for the trade unions to table their issues. “We’ll be taking on board all the issues, initiatives, which the new government has signaled we need to take. This would be an excellent opportunity for us together to reshape the social protection system,” she stated.

JIS Social