The Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) says this year it has so far paid GHc1.66 million to invalid pensioners under its invalidity pension, with some of the pensioners being as young as 30 years.
The invalidity pension benefit is paid to members of the scheme who, irrespective of how old they are, have suffered accidents or illnesses that make it impossible for them to work again.
The Director-General (D-G) of SSNIT, Dr John Ofori-Tenkorang, who disclosed this at the launch of this year’s SSNIT Mobile Service Week in Tamale last Monday, said currently there were about 1,500 invalid people (pensioners) who were being catered for and living financially independent lives because they joined the scheme.
The mobile service week is to woo players in the informal sector, especially the self-employed, such as carpenters, tailors, dressmakers, hairdressers, chop bar operators, mechanics, commercial drivers, among others, to register with and benefit from the scheme.
This year’s service week, scheduled for August 30 to September 3, 2021, is on the theme: “Retirement security for the self-employed: Join SSNIT today as a voluntary contributor”.
Fifty-nine designated centres across the country have been set up to carry out the campaign.
Dr Ofori-Tenkorang explained that those who had contributed for at least 12 months within 36 months before the sickness or accident occurred and had been certified by a medical board as not being able to work again were eligible to enjoy the benefit from SSNIT, adding that they would be paid for the rest of their lives, unless they recovered at some point.
“So you may be driving trotro, Uber or taxi today, or you may be the best mechanic or fitter in town, but one mistake or error of judgement could maim you for life; and that is when SSNIT will step in as your lifeline by paying you a monthly pension for as long as it is necessary,” he said.
The D-G disclosed further that last year, SSNIT paid benefits amounting to GHc3.3 billion, while in August 2021 it paid GHc250,000 to some 233,000 pensioners.
He said a beneficiary received about GHc130,000 because his monthly premiums were high and he had been a member of the scheme for a long time.
“Some pensioners also received GHc300 because they insured very low salaries with SSNIT while they were working,” he indicated.
On the issue of low pensions, Dr Ofori-Tenkorang said in spite of the commentary about perceived low pensions, no pensioner had discredited the relevance or benefits of SSNIT pensions in his or her life.
He explained that with the SSNIT scheme, what one put in determined what the person received as pension.
“In other words, contributions made on a higher salary will guarantee a more significant pension and a decent retirement. In fact, most pensioners we engage indicate that the pensions they receive is their only source of livelihood in retirement.
“What this tells us is that the important role the SSNIT scheme plays is not in doubt, so perhaps if the conversation were to shift from the perceived low pensions to what workers can do to earn decent pensions, the adequacy issue will self-resolve,” he stressed.
SSNIT for all
Dr Ofori-Tenkorang said the scheme was for everybody, and that it was the only scheme in the country that “pays you for life, and every worker, irrespective of the sector or nature of your work”.
He intimated that most self-employed people were not able to retire and rest because they did not belong to a structured social security scheme.
He backed his assertion with information from the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations, which he said had only three per cent of workers in the informal sector belonging to any structured social security scheme.
“Sadly, less than one per cent of the 232,960 pensioners were self-employed, hence the decision to use this year’s mobile service week to woo members of informal sector groups to sign onto the scheme to enable them to enjoy pension in their old age when they cannot work again,” he explained.
That, he said, meant that over the years, very few workers in the informal sector had signed onto the SSNIT scheme or any private scheme, adding that that painted a very gloomy picture of the future of those workers.
The SSNIT Area Manager for Tamale, Mr Festus Darko-Preko, in his welcome address, called on members of informal sector groups to take advantage of the advisory services that would be provided during the service week to engage with officials of the scheme on how to prepare for retirement.
“This is necessary because, irrespective of the work you do, you will retire due to either old age or invalidity. I entreat you to make time to visit any of the designated places and we will help you understand how to prepare for your retirement journey,” he advised workers.