The data at the National Insurance Services (NIS) paints a picture of the Government’s strides in enhancing income security in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
“When you hear they tell you that so many more people are unemployed and all the rest of it, if that were the case, how is it that you have so many more people registered at the NIS?” Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves commented on Wednesday while speaking to the NBC radio Morning Cup program with Colville Harry.
“I am not dealing about a survey here. In fact if you go and look at the 2012 census…you will some interesting statistics,” the Prime Minister further stated.
He said that the June 2001 census said that 35,588 persons were employed while in 2012, 40,821 were employed.
“5000 and something more, that is what it said. But to show you a reasonable correspondence in these numbers, in 2000 there were 30,076 active registrants [at the NIS] as employees. In 2010 there were 35,001 and in 2015, 37,389. As you notice there, between 2000 and 2010 you had about 5000 more and up to 2015 about 7200 more,” the Prime Minister said.
He noted also that in 2000, there were 1,726 employers, a number which now stands at 2,310.
Gonsalves said that at the end of the year 2000, three months before the Unity Labor Party (ULP) came to office, there were 30,385 active contributors to the NIS. Active contributors are described as active employees, the active self-employed and a small number of persons who contribute voluntarily.
He said that number moved from 30,385 in 2000 to 42,406 at the end of 2019.
“In other words 12,021 more persons or 40 per cent more persons are active contributors.”
He noted however that some of the increase is because more people see the importance of the NIS, while much of the ==increase is because more persons are working today than were working in 2000.
He said that the NIS statistics show that active employees increased from 30,076 in 2000 to 40,709 in 2019.
“In other words by 10,633 or 26 per cent,” said Gonsalves, who added that the NIS estimates that between 15 to 20 per cent of working persons are not on the NIS roll.
“In other words they estimate that another 8000 people are out there who are working who do not pay NIS and I want to encourage them to make sure that their employers pay,” Gonsalves said.
“One of the terrible things that happens is that some employers are deducting money and not paying it over. Keep in touch with the NIS, it is a criminal offence for them to deduct the money and don’t pay it over.
“I want the employers to know that it is not merely a civil offence because what you are doing, you collecting the money on behalf of the NIS who holding it in trust and you can’t use trust monies for any other purpose than the purpose of the trust. The law is clear, it is not only a civil matter for you to pay back the money, it is criminal.”
Gonsalves said the NIS numbers are good, but that does not mean there is not unemployment. He said the statistics also show that the labour force has increased, although the population only increased by about 1000 persons between 2000 and 2012.
“In the case of older persons, more of them are working,” said the Prime Minister, who added that the retirement age was 55 but now persons are working to 60 and 62 and even when they retire from one job, they take up another somewhere else.
The work force numbers have increased from 74,828 to 82,263, Gonsalves said, even though more persons in the 15 to 19 working age population are in secondary school.
“For instance, in the 55 to 59 age group, over 5000 persons were in the working age population in 2012 but in 2001 it was 2,830 and in the 60 to 64 group, in 2012 was 3,821 but in 2001 was 2,784.
“People are living longer, healthier and the challenge is to make sure you have the economy in a way to employ younger people,” Gonsalves explained.
He noted also that there were 2,940 pensioners in the year 2000, but that number is now at 8,264, an increase of 5,324 or 181 per cent.
“These are incredible numbers to show the progress which has been made in this country with the social safety net,” Gonsalves boasted.