The Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) is targeting to enrol within a year one million self-employed and informal sector workers as it begins public engagements toward pensions coverage of the informal sector, according to the Director-General of the Trust, Dr. John Ofori-Tenkorang.
This will eventually expand and deepen coverage of the Basic National Social Security Scheme to self-employed workers, as well as increase the number of active contributors to the SSNIT Scheme. Out of about 1.8 million active contributors to the SSNIT Scheme, only about 14,314 are self-employed – representing a mere 0.8 percent of active contributors.
In an interview at the Trust’s 2022 stakeholder meeting, dubbed ‘Extending Pension Coverage to the self-Employed and Informal Sector Workers’, the Director-General of SSNIT said the Trust wants to try and bring in about a million people.
“I know this one is one of those things that you have to sensitise people to get them to buy into it, and it may take a while to get the traction. But I have been charging my staff that from when we roll-out, a year after that we should get about at least a million new people from the self-employed,” Ofori-Tenkorang said.
“Because if there are about 11.5 million workers (of which only 1.7 million are active contributors to the scheme), we should be able to get the one million contributors,” he added.
Currently, the number of people self-employed and informal sector contributors on the scheme have largely been on the back of the pensions law [National Pensions Act, 2008, Act 766 with Amendment Act 883], which makes enrolment of self-employed persons onto the SSNIT Scheme optional.
Industry analysts assert that if drastic measures are not taken and implemented to have such workers put on a structured social security scheme, it will lead to an increase in poverty among the aged in the near-future.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO), in its 2019 policy report, identifies the situation wherein many social security schemes primarily focus on providing coverage for salaried employees as a major challenge.
The gaps in social protection for self-employed workers raises concerns not only for the realisation of their human right to social security but also for social and economic development and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular target 1.3 on social protection systems.
Dr. Ofori-Tenkorang highlighted the necessity of extending coverage to informal sector workers; not only to increase active membership and contributor base of the Scheme, but also to ensure that every worker in Ghana enjoys social protection.
This, he added, will help reduce poverty and over-dependence on family relations and friends during old age.
In March 2022, the SSNIT Pension Scheme had paid a total of GH¢274.66million to some 227,128 pensioners. The highest pension earner receives GH¢142,565 per month, while the lowest-earning pensioner gets GH¢300.
Speaking at the event, the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Ignatius Baffour Awuah, lauded SSNIT’s management for the initiative to extend social security coverage to self-employed workers in the country.
He noted that a recent study conducted by the ministry indicated that one of the main things workers use their disposable income for is spending on their aged parents; and thus whenever people are not covered by any structured social security system, they tend to fall on the working population.
“Indeed, if we want to make sure that we all have a good standard of living even during our old age, then the best way is to ensure we are put on social security,” Mr. Baffour Awuah noted. He explained that considering the unique benefits the SSNIT Scheme provides to members, it is important for the self-employed to join the First-Tier.