This year, the Children Summer Programme of the Charles Halbert Public Library explored the sub-theme Jobs in St Kitts, the Socio-economic Environment. To do this, they asked Social Security to speak to the 10–12-year-olds who participated in the programme on the topic Does The Employee Really Benefit From Paying Social Security?  Staff member Kamilah Lawrence gladly did so, on our behalf.

In fact, we have been intensely interacting with the primary school students as part of our education programme as we celebrate 30 years of providing excellent service to the people of the Federation.  At one school session a young boy described us as ‘too good’.  This article explores our “too goodness” and lets you decide whether the worker truly benefits.

It bears repeating that Social Security is a wage insurance system. In this regard we are a unique form of insurance.  We insure your wages or salary against those times when you cannot or should not work if you don’t want to (that is, old age).   We pay short term benefit  – sickness benefits, sex benefits (do I have your attention now?  It’s really maternity benefit); and death benefit.  We pay Employment benefits under 10 different categories and we pay long term benefits under 12 different headings.  These benefits in 2007 amounted to EC$30.2 million.  It may well be the single largest payroll of any local agency in the Federation.

Three thousand, four hundred, fifty three (3,453) persons are on our long term payroll and another 9,408 persons received an occasional cheque from us last year when they could not work.  If we were the employer of those long term benefit persons, our staff would have been the third largest business section, employing 8% of the population and only beaten by the government sector and the hotel/restaurant sectors.  These two sectors offer 16% and 9% of all jobs in the Federation.  In a few years time, however, we will be the number one provider of sustenance to our population.

In our public relations drive, we boast that we look after you from the cradle to the grave.  For 2007, we supplied 1104 cradle benefits (543 maternity allowances and 561 grants) and 205 grave benefits (192 adult and 13 child funerals).  In between we paid 8980 of the other benefits.  But what I really want to focus on is our $21,429,000 long term payroll payments.

For reaching age 62 and surviving beyond that age, we paid 1,771 persons approximately $16 million.  We paid 355 children who had either lost their parents or were incapable of work. We paid 35 parents who had lost their breadwinning child. We paid 337 persons who had lost their spouses (legal and common-law); and we paid 674 persons who were in need of help (assistance pension).  There was one person in this last group who was 109 years old.  Congratulations!

It is true that some persons do not benefit directly.  Our data shows that each year about 6% of our insured persons do not reach the magic age of 62.  But we know that the survivors of these unfortunate few qualify for the Survivors Benefit and at least for the funeral grant.

That is the good news.  The bad news is that we are still fighting with delinquent employers and deceitful employees. You have seen the reports, published in the newspapers, about those persons who have to be prosecuted in the Courts.  Also, our ability to maintain this level of goodness will be severely tested in the not so distant future unless we generate more money.

Furthermore, work, as we used to know it, has changed. People who were employees, doing a particular activity, are now self employed and doing the same activity. Their payment system has changed and is more difficult to follow.  What some of us used to do for entertainment and hobbies now earns serious money (e.g. sports) as people turn professional.

Applause for singing on stage is suddenly insufficient; it comes with an appearance fee.  Somebody who can talk good and make you laugh charges to do so.  So Social Security has to find creative ways of insuring earnings of  our artistes, announcers, athletes, independent contractors, consultants, comics, childminders, caregivers, housesitters, sportsmen and so on. They, too, must continue to benefit from Social Security.

Does the employee, the self employed really benefit from paying Social Security?  Let us blow our own trumpet and answer in the words of Senator Clinton (when she was asked if Obama could win the U.S. Presidency): “Yes, yes and YES!  Get on board. NOW!