JIS News

The Ministry of Labour and Social Security is to undertake a public education campaign on the benefits of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), State Minister, Andrew Gallimore informed the House of Representatives on Wednesday (July 2).
Making his contribution to the 2008/09 Sectoral Debate, Mr. Gallimore noted that only 400,000 of the country’s near three million population were currently members of the NIS, and expressed surprise at this fact, given what he said are the benefits under the scheme.
“What do you get when you are a member of this scheme? You get to secure a benefit at your retirement, of a pension or a grant dependent on how much you have out in. You get an invalidity pension or grant, meaning that if something happens to you, you still have an income. you will be medically assessed but you will have a benefit. You get a benefit, either as a widow or a widower, (being) a pension or a grant,” he outlined.
“(And) if you were to pass away, your child would be entitled to an orphan’s pension or grant. If you died or your spouse died, they would be able to get a benefit of a funeral grant. And on top of all of that, when you do become retired, you would become a part of the National Insurance Pensioners health plan – the N.I. Gold,” the State Minister continued.
Mr. Gallimore advised that currently, there are 90,000 pensioners in Jamaica, representing only one-third of the country’s senior citizens (persons over age 60). Additionally, he said that there are another 37,000 senior citizens on the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), noting that more than 66 per cent of Jamaica’s citizens made no plans for retirement.
“They are not a part of the NIS, and they are not a part of any other retirement scheme. It is a crisis, it is a major problem,” he lamented.
“The NIS Fund is meant to be the bottom rung in planning for one’s retirement; and the first day that a young person starts working they should start making their contributions, and they should start making their plans for retirement. The NIS is not meant to be a replacement income upon retirement. It is meant to ensure that as senior citizens, our people do not fall into abject poverty,” Mr. Gallimore pointed out.
Citing an example, the State Minister said a household helper or vendor joining the scheme, could contribute as little as $20 per week, which equates to $1,040 for the year. He explained that if the individual were to contribute over a 42 year period, representing their working life up to retirement, they would have contributed a total of $43,680. Under the present regime, he said, that individual would receive a pension of $2,000 a week or $104,000 a year for the rest of his/her life after retirement.
Mr. Gallimore noted that within the last year, the NIS Act was amended to facilitate individuals qualifying for a pension with an average of 10 weeks contribution instead of 13. Additionally, he said that there have been changes that allow contributors who file late payments, to receive up to three years retroactive payment instead of one.
“In the past, if you had been due for retirement five years ago, and you had not come and claimed your pension, you would only get one year retroactive. Now you get three year’s retroactive payment. Approximately 8,000 senior citizens have received cheques of $300,000 as a result of this change in policy,” he informed.
He also advised that payments of pension grants are now given, even where an application is late. Additionally, as at April 7 this year, all flat rate benefits were increased by 33. 5 per cent, with grants going up by $10,000. “The benefits that will go to the contributors to the NIS this year, will be an estimated $8 billion,” Mr. Gallimore disclosed.
The State Minister said proactive steps must be taken to make the future of the Jamaica’s seniors better, and urged every individual of working age to join the NIS.
“It will take a lot of pressure off you. And if you get assistance from other quarters, at least you will know that you are entitled to the assistance of these different pensions and grants that I have mentioned,” he said.

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