The Minister for Employment and Labour Relations (MELR), Ignatius Baffour Awuah has disclosed that the ever famous Planting for Food and Jobs Programme introduced by the Akufo-Addo led government has successfully created over one million jobs for youths in the country from 2017 and 2018.
According to him, the programme has contributed to the falling unemployment rate of 11.9% to 7.1 from 2015 to 2019 resulting to a stable and peaceful industrial atmosphere.
Addressing the media at a press briefing, Hon. Ignatius Baffour Awuah said “These figures largely reflects the numerous effect of the government flagship policies, programmes and interventions conceptualized in the Coordinated Programme For Economic and Social Development Policies (2017-2024) and the National Medium-Term Developments Framework (2018-2021) which puts job creation at the centre of the National Development Agenda. These interventions include; Planting for Food and Jobs(PFJ), Rearing for Food and Jobs (RFJ) and One District One Factory (1D1F) among others.”
He added that during the period of review, a total of 611,397 new jobs were created in the formal sector, out of which; the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) accounted for 343,458 new jobs emphasizing the Private Sector’s estimated 267,939 new jobs.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, through the visionary leadership of His Excellency ably supported by members of His Government utilizing the combined efforts of the institutions listed above and the collaborations of all employment-generating institutions, I can confidently say that unemployment is on the decline.” He revealed.
It is emerging that Ghana’s working-age population (i.e 15+ years) is estimated at 17.56million comprising of 46.8% males and 53.2% females. A total of 11.06million representing 63% of the working-age population are in different types and forms of employment and 1.14 million people representing about 6% are working for own use or working voluntarily. Out of the 16.9% contributing family workers, 13.1% are in agriculture whiles the remaining 3.8% are in non-agricultural activities. Out of the 5.36million Ghanaians who did not do any work, about 4.34million were not available for work due to schooling, training, incapacitation or domestic duties.
The Minister, however, recalled that in the 2019 May Day Address under the theme; “Sustainable Pension for All: The Role of Social Partners”, President Akufo-Addo gave a directive to the sector to resolve all pension and pension-related matters that were raised by the Organised Labour.
The government passed the National Pension Act, 2008 (Act 766) in 2008 to provide for pension reform in the country by; the introduction of a contributory 3-Tier Pension Scheme; the establishment of a Regulator - National Pensions Regulatory Authority to oversee the administration and management of registered pension schemes and trustees of registered schemes, the establishment of a Social Security and National Insurance Trust to manage the Basic National Social Security Scheme to cater for the 1st Tier of the contributory 3-Tier Scheme and to provide for related matters.
He said “For effective and efficient management of pensions and to ensure retirement income security for all, Government in 2008 introduced the 3-tier pension scheme through the passage of the Act 766 as amended to replace the then existing pension law, PNDC Law 247. Under Act 766 as amended, employers make direct contributions of 13% for and on behalf of their employees and these employees contribute 5.5% making a total of 18.5%. The first and second Tiers are mandatory whiles the third is voluntary.”
It is, however, emerging that as at 31st December 2018, the active worker population recorded on the Tier 1 was 1,533,942. New members enrolled onto the SSNIT Scheme increased from 281, 303 in 2017 to 611,397 as at May 2019 at an average growth rate of 46.8%. The exercise led to the deletion of 6,311 “ghost” pensioners from the SSNIT payroll, saving the Trust over GH₵ 43.8 million as at the end of May, 2019. Currently, the average processing time for pension payment has reduced drastically from 30 days to 17 days and is paid mid-month ahead of workers salary.
On Sanctions Regime & Prosecution Of Defaulting Employers, the Minister said “In line with our Strategic Plan, the Authority is implementing a Sanctions Regime to enforce compliance and instill discipline in the pensions industry. The Authority has also been given the power by the Attorney General to prosecute Defaulting Employers. Currently, (as at June 2019) 13 defaulting employers have been earmarked for prosecution. Dockets are being prepared to send them to court.”
Information gathered indicates that on Payment Of Temporary Pension Fund Account (TPFA), GH¢ 3.1 billion TPFA paid into the custodian accounts of the various public sector registered pension schemes. The schemes include: Ghana Education Service Occupational Pension Scheme, Health Sector Occupational Pension Scheme, Judicial Service Occupational Pension Scheme, Hedge Master Trust Occupational Pension Scheme and Public Sector Workers Employees’ Pension Scheme. On the issue of Payment Of Tier 2 Benefits, Efforts are being expedited to bring all matters arising out of the TPFA transfers including Data Reconciliation of beneficiaries and the issue of Past Credit to a logical conclusion. In line with the President’s directive on May Day this year, serious attention has since been given to these matters to facilitate the smooth and efficient payment of Tier 2 pension benefits from 2020.
Hon Awuah said “On Tier 3 Contributions, as at the first quarter of 2019, the total membership of personal pension scheme was 158,577 with a total Asset under Management of GH₵88,646,234.58 (US$17,729,246.92). These notwithstanding and considering the fact that the informal economy employs about 85% of the entire workforce of the country, there is a lot more of the informal sector workers within the Ghanaian population uncovered and all efforts should be on deck to extend coverage to this important segment of the economy whiles Efforts to extend Tier 3 Coverage in the informal sector. Decentralization of operation of NPRA: So far, the Authority has four (4) regional offices in the country: Kumasi, Tamale, Takoradi, and Sunyani. More regional and district offices are expected to be opened over the medium-term to improve pension administration at all levels. Stakeholder discussions are still ongoing to establish specific pension schemes for various economic units within the informal economy ranging from farmers, fishermen, market women and traders, drivers, artisans (carpenters, masons, welders, tailors, hairdressers, etc.) to spare parts dealers etc.”
Reacting to Consumer Protection Policy, the Minister for Employment and Labour Relations emphasized that the Authority has introduced a Consumer Protection Policy for the Pensions Industry adding that it is the benchmark for assessing the service providers’ dealings with contributors and the general public.
He, however, lauded the media for contributing to the success of these programmes urging them to continue disseminating the good works of the Akufo-Addo led government.