Hon. Eugene Hamilton, Minister f Social Security, St. Kitts & Nevis
Fellow citizens, nationals and residents, as Minister with responsibility for Social Security, I greet you on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of Self-employed coverage. It was July 1st, 1996 that Social Security, in alignment with ILO’s Convention for universal coverage for all working persons; extended full coverage to those persons who created their own employment.
Before this time, Self-employed persons, in some cases paid social security contributions on behalf of their employees but were not mandated by law to cover or rather protect their income when life contingencies occurred. In response to this, the Social Security Act No 13 of 1977 was amended to include self-employed persons as a distinctive category of ‘insured persons’ in true solidarity with all others….and the requisite Regulations were then incorporated.
Today there are 5862 self-employed persons registered with social security across all sectors of employment.
The average distribution of the self-employed registration across the top 5 sectors between 2015-2019 are as follows:
Wholesale and Retail 20%
Transport, Storage & Communications 14%
Real Estate, Renting and Business Activities 11%
Other Community, Social and Personal Activities 10%
These insured persons are guaranteed pecuniary payments in times of need; sickness, maternity, invalidity, survivors and age pensions amongst others. This level of inclusion has borne significant rewards. From 1996 to 2021, Social Security has collected $30.62 million in Self-employed contributions. For the same period, I am advised that $78.89 million was paid out in benefits to persons who have shared a combination of employee and self-employed contributions. In 2019 alone, such persons received $5.52 million in benefit payments.
The scenario I just described is demonstrably unsustainable…..and the 70% non-compliant self-employed must be prepared to step to the plate and shoulder their responsibility in partnership and solidarity with the 30% compliant cohort…..in solidarity with all of those other insured persons who are covered by their employers.
That would be the true manifestation of the solidarity principle for which Social Security is well known…which is indeed one of the very cornerstones of our social security system.
All of the available data shows that self-employed coverage serves the needs of the self-employed with meaningful pay-outs in benefits and an average age pension of $1101.00 per month as of December 2020.
This sector is by far the fastest growing and even more so now with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic as people are finding innovative means to provide for themselves; many of them in non-traditional informal work situations that pose serious challenges for securing their full participation in Social Security. Hence while registration continues to grow steadily, compliance continues to hover around the 30-percentile tier as I have alluded to moments ago.
This is alarming and I take this opportunity to implore the self-employed to consider their future as with age or sickness, the probability of loss of income is increased. You must be in it to benefit from the fund. Therefore, you must comply or be denied. This, of course, is not the stance we wish to take and as such, social security encourages the Self Employed to take a keen interest in their social security status and maintain a healthy record.
We are cognizant of the current environment and Social Security remains committed to keeping the self-employed engaged. The compliance officers are welcoming and are ready to work on a plan that would help the self-employed navigate these difficult times. It is important to look ahead with hope for business continuity and most importantly a dignified end when one retires from active work. The guarantee of a monthly pension is worth the continued effort.
On this occasion of observing 25 years of Self Employed coverage, we highlight the work of all involved in the policymaking, practitioners, and the self-employed and thank them for their service. Without your commitment, there would be no observance. The self-employed would still be a sector left without adequate coverage and their quality of life would be vastly different.
As I conclude this message to all stakeholders, I remind you of the significance of Social Security in our everyday lives. The institution since 1978 has contributed significantly to the improvement of lives of those who are eligible for its various benefits, assistance to the nation’s vulnerable, and most recently in 2020 when $22 million was disbursed to working persons whose income had been adversely impacted by the covid-19 pandemic. This support cannot be extended without the contributions of all employers, employees, and the self-employed. The sustainability of the social security fund is dependent on this.
I urge all stakeholders to safeguard our social security fund. We have a responsibility to pay contributions on time, report incidences of non-compliance, and pay keen attention to social security systems worldwide.
Happy 25th Anniversary of self-employed coverage – 25 years of sustaining the self-employed. During this time, please be diligent to stay safe and follow the established protocols as we work together to fight the deadly coronavirus disease. May God bless our social security fund and cause it to prosper to serve the needs of the people.
Photo: Eugene Hamilton, Minister of Social Security, St. Kitts & Nevis