Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Derrick Kellier, says he is pleased with the progress of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), having successfully reached its 46th Anniversary.
“We recognise and salute those who were instrumental in the development of this scheme 46 years ago, and also those who continued the journey, which over the years, has benefitted thousands of Jamaicans islandwide,” he says.
Turning to the history of the NIS, he informs that the Scheme was founded by former Minister of Labour and National Insurance, the late Lynden G. Newland, in April of 1966.
He tells JIS News that at the time, the country was adapting to the dawn of an independent nation, and concurrently, the labour force was transitioning from a scheme characterised by self-employment, to a wage earning class.
The Minister notes that the Sugar Industry Pension Scheme was the only plan in which workers could participate nationally, but it was on the verge of bankruptcy.
Remarkably, the birth of the NIS provided benefits such as: old age, special child, orphan, invalidity, widow’s and widower’s pensions to all employees and their family members.
Throughout the years, the range of benefits have expanded, and now include employment injury benefits, maternity allowance for domestic workers, special anniversary pension, health insurance, funeral and other available grants.
The Minister emphasises that the scheme is critical to the well-being of the nation, and the Government remains committed to ensuring that the scheme will continue to progress, to strengthen the country’s social safety net.
“This Government will endeavour to ensure the scheme’s sustained viability, that by the year 2030, Jamaica’s contributory social assistance coverage will be in line with the international standards set by the International Labour Organisation (ILO),” Mr. Kellier says.
This is also in keeping with the goal spelled out in Jamaica’s National Development Plan -Vision 2030.
Vision 2030 Jamaica is the country’s first long-term national development plan, which aims at enabling Jamaica to achieve developed country status by 2030. It is based on a comprehensive vision: “Jamaica, the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business."
The Minister says he is dissatisfied with the number of persons currently contributing to the scheme. “Only 40 per cent of the labour force is currently contributing to the NIS, and more money is paid out in benefits than is remitted as contributions in any one year,” he points out.
Mr. Kellier tells JIS News that the scheme is a crucial component of the country’s social safety net programme, designed to provide social security coverage for the employed, unemployed, and self-employed.
He says that investing as little as $50 weekly can guarantee a secure future for unemployed persons, while employed persons can reap rewarding benefits from a 2.5 per cent deduction from their gross salary, which is contributed to the NIS.
“We can definitively say that the NIS has touched the lives of thousands during its 46 years of existence. Benefits are now paid to 98,000 persons under this scheme,” he discloses.
While the Ministry celebrates the accomplishments of the NIS, the Minister acknowledges that, “there are challenges that we are facing in an environment defined by continuous technological advances, and a more sophisticated citizenry."
“I realise that we are in a digital age, and efforts are being made to upgrade the current manual system used for NIS purposes, to an electronic system, to enable efficiency, and meet the growing demand of the population,” the Minister says.
Mr. Kellier is appealing for more persons to start contributing towards the scheme to reap future benefits, and to enable it to grow.
The NIS is one of the oldest compulsory, contributory-funded social security schemes in the Caribbean, which provides coverage for all employed persons in Jamaica.
For more information on the NIS, persons can visit the parish offices islandwide, or contact the Ministry’s head office at 876-922-8000-9.
Information on the NIS can also be accessed through the Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s website at: www.mlss.gov.jm.
By Jeneva Gordon, JIS PRO