Self-employed on SSNIT quadruple
The number of self-employed persons on the tier one pension scheme the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) manages has more than quadrupled in the last two quarters of the year.
From about 14,200 in May this year, the number has risen to over 57,000 as of last month, with more preparing to come on board.
The Director-General of SSNIT, Dr John Ofori-Tenkorang, in an interview with the Daily Graphic, attributed the feat to an aggressive campaign by the management of the state-run pension scheme.
The campaign is aimed at roping a large number of workers in the informal sector of the economy into the scheme.
The Director-General said although SSNIT had been able to work to enrol tens of thousands of self-employed persons onto the scheme within a short period, the task ahead was still arduous, adding that “we will not relent but continue to push harder to increase the numbers into the hundreds of thousands and into the millions per our laid down plan of action because we see the potential”.
The National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA) estimates that about 600,000 of the 6.7 million self-employed people in the country have some form of pension cover.
This implies that a whopping 6.1 million self-employed persons do not have any form of pension cover.
Dr Ofori-Tenkorang admitted the huge number of self-employed persons who were not yet enrolled onto the scheme, but was still optimistic that with the move initiated by SSNIT to demystify the pension scheme, more people would join.
SSNIT, led by its management, just completed a nationwide sensitisation tour, in collaboration with the Trades Union Congress (TUC), to educate self-employed persons on the value of joining the pension scheme.
Earlier this year, SSNIT, in its quest to rope more of the self-employed persons into the tier-one pension scheme, launched a special programme, christened Self-Employed Enrolment Drive (SEED).
The initiative seeks to fulfil the mandate of SSNIT to extend pension coverage to all workers, including the self-employed.
Hailed as a positive step, SEED is expected to help redefine social security in the country and give hope to the self-employed, in particular, that they could also retire in dignity and comfort and not be overly dependent on their families and loved ones when they are no longer in active service.
Justifying the resolve of SSNIT’s quest to focus on the self-employed, Dr Ofori-Tenkorang said “when we all cannot work and retire to our villages, whether we worked in an office or not, or whether we sold on the streets or in the shops; our needs are basically the same, so whatever arrangement has been made available to people who work in the so-called formal sector, there should be the same for those who work in the so-called informal sector”.
He added: “Because of our intent to change the future of this group of workers (self-employed), that’s why we initiated this aggressive campaign headed”.
Asked about what has changed the once frosty relationship between the Trust and TUC to make way for the collaboration, the SSNIT DG said in the past, there were things about SSNIT which were not perceived right.
He explained that the TUC had the mandate to make sure that workers in Ghana were given a fair deal, so if they perceived that workers were not being given a fair deal, it was their obligation to ensure the correction of that situation.
“At the same time, they have the mandate to ensure that workers in Ghana are protected for their future.
They are interested in pensions and so if there is something good that they think is beneficial to their members and can make them retire and live in dignity, it’s their mandate to also ensure that it is projected,” Dr Ofori-Tenkorang stated.
“Our relationship with organised labour had been frosty in the past because there was a narrative that we were not calculating pensions correctly; we were not being transparent; we were cheating pensioners; somebody will give you their money for 20/30 years and they do not see their statements; somebody wants to make a legitimate claim and the ‘go and come’ attitude kicks in to an extent that sometimes, pensioners have to resort to the use of middlemen,” he recalled.
Dr Ofori-Tenkorang said based on the negative perceptions, the Trust had no option but to open up even more by constantly engaging organised labour to explain the issues to allay their fears.
He said today, SSNIT had turned around its processes to make things easy for pensioners.
“Now we send quarterly statements electronically; we process pensions promptly and accurately. Right now, if you put in your pension claims, that claim is processed and it’s due in the next 10 days,” the Director-General said.
He touted how SSNIT had worked to win the confidence of labour.
“That is why, I believe, this time around, when we came up with this programme, they gladly accepted to join,” Dr Ofori-Tenkorang stated.
To back his arguments on the need for persons without pensions to join the scheme, the Director-General cited the experience of COVID-19 which forced almost everybody to go on pension because “we were not able to go to work so if your livelihood depended on being able to get out of the house to do whatever work to get something to feed on, then this time around, you cannot go to work.
“Basically, you are retired and if one looked at whatever situation they found themselves in at that time and assuming that it continued for a month, a year or two years or more that gives a picture of what your retirement was going to be like because you have said that your retirement comes when you are unable to go to work,” he explained.
Dr Ofori-Tenkorang said COVID-19 gave a short picture of what retirement was going to be like and for most people, that was not a good development.
“But for all those who were on the scheme, they never missed even one payment and so didn’t miss anything during the COVID-19 outbreak,” he added.
Dr Ofori-Tenkorang expressed the hope that all those who did not believe in pensions would reverse that notion and take full advantage of the opportunity to come on board.
The Director-General of SSNIT said much as it was not compulsory for the self-employed, there was the need for them to see themselves both as the employer and employee and do what would guarantee them a better future when they finally retired from active service.