Minister of Tourism, Hon. Edmund Bartlett, says that Jamaica’s tourism industry has recorded a historic first, by being the only country in the world with a comprehensive tourism workers’ pension plan.
Speaking with JIS News, following the official launch of the Tourism Workers Pension Scheme (TWPS) at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, St. James, he said that it was also a first for Jamaica. While most other pension plans relate to different companies or entities, Jamaica’s Tourism Workers Pension Scheme embraces all workers, entrepreneurs, and stakeholders and will benefit hundreds of thousands of persons, directly and indirectly, employed in the industry.
“In all my years as Minister of Tourism, today must be recorded as one of the most memorable and dearest events in my heart, and I expect it is the same for hundreds of thousands of tourism workers who, from today, can look forward to ending their many years of invaluable service to the industry, and to their country, in dignity as they look forward to reaping the benefits of this groundbreaking Tourism Workers Pension Scheme,” Mr. Bartlett explained.
“This is more than just a game changer; it is in fact a life-changer, as it gives our tourism workers something to look forward to that will supplement their savings going into the twilight years of their life. The scheme has been 14 years in the making and fulfils a commitment I made, but more than anything else it really underscores our commitment to improving the welfare of workers in the industry while developing the human capital and our recognition and appreciation that our people, with one of the most amazing cultures in the Caribbean, are the backbone of our very important tourism industry.”
Mr. Bartlett said it would be a huge mistake to undervalue or trivialise the role of industry workers, noting that regardless of how good the physical plants in tourism are, “it is the attitude and approach of the workers” that have been the key factors contributing to the persistent growth in visitor arrivals and stopovers, and “the phenomenal 40-odd per cent” in repeat stopovers prior to the COVID-19 pandemic interruption.
“Let me remind you that this pension scheme is a contributory plan supported by legislation and mandatory contributions by workers and employers. It is a policy position. It covers all categories of workers, ages from 18 to 59 years, in the tourism sector whether you are in the hospitality sector, attractions, entertainment, transportation, so long as you do qualify as being a tourism worker,” the Minister added.
“Let me also remind you that in this pension plan, a tourism worker is defined as permanent, contract or self-employed. So, in addition to targeting workers in the hotel sector, the scheme also covers those employed in related industries, including our craft vendors, tour operators, red cap porters and workers in the attractions sector, among others. And once all criteria have been met, you will start receiving benefits at age 65 years or older.”
Mr. Bartlett said that the mandatory contribution for the first two years is set at three per cent of the employee’s gross salary and will be matched by the employer.
He added that the pension scheme has received overwhelming support within the sector, noting that as of the third year, the employers’ contribution increases to five per cent.
He further noted that the Government has provided $1 billion to seed the fund so that immediate benefit can accrue to qualified pensioners.
“The road to getting here this morning has been a really challenging journey that required a whole lot of grit to manoeuvre the various hurdles that had to be overcome,” the Minister added. “We, however, had a great and committed team who worked assiduously to getting us there.”