Jamaica government advised to make pension contributions mandatory

Kingston, Jamaica — With a recent study showing that Jamaicans are living longer but most have made no plans for their financial security during their retirement years, the Jamaica government is being advised to make pension contributions compulsory.

“Today’s older person has changed and will live at least 20 to 25 years after retirement and will need the financial assistance that a pension provides,” director of the Mona Ageing and Wellness Centre, Dr. Denise Eldemire-Shearer urged.

She presented the findings of a 2012 study, ‘Solid Start Ageing in Jamaica’, at a recent conference on aging.

That showed that of those surveyed, 60 per cent did not have pensions and never contributed to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS). The findings were in keeping with a 1995 study done by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ).

“Only a third of the 2,800 persons that we interviewed said they had thought about pension as part of their retirement plan and other 38 per cent did not answer. Nothing has changed. The same thing is happening for the 40-60 years age group and unless we do something about pension contribution, your grandchildren will be having the same discussion,” Dr. Eldemire-Shearer said.

The survey also found that the largest increase in the ageing group was among females over 80, most of who had no pension, were single and had poor housing and poor health.

“We are exploding in terms of the numbers of older people at a time when the younger people are decreasing . . . which means those of us who could bank on having five, six children to look after us, that luxury is not there for coming generations,” she pointed out.

Dr. Eldemire-Shearer stressed the need for discussion surrounding a possible increase in the age of retirement, as social security systems are no longer able to sustain persons living well beyond retirement when they could have still been working and contributing to national development.

She further called for an inter-ministerial approach to ageing as “the issues, the challenges and the opportunities around ageing are no longer just in social security”.

Data from the 2011 Population and Housing Census showed that over the last decade (2001-2011), the number of persons in the 45-64 age group grew by 127,379, there were over 1.26 million persons in the 30-64 age range, and 217,606 persons were in the 65 and over age group.

In 2011, there were approximately 305,163 senior citizens in the 60-95 age group.

The United Nations has projected that the world population will grow by an average 70 million each year up to 2025, after which it will increase by 40 million annually until the middle of the century, when the population will reach just over 8.9 billion.

The number of persons age 65 and over is expected to double from the current seven per cent or 450 million, to 16 per cent or 1.4 billion persons by 2050.

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