The Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) has seen a surge in the number of self-employed individuals actively contributing to the basic social security scheme, with an about-300 percent increase over the past six months.
The surge follows the Self-Employed Enrolment Drive (SEED) programme launch. Just under a year ago, the SSNIT scheme had a mere 14,000 self-employed contributors; however, the number now stands at 57,000 – reflecting a substantial shift within a relatively short period.
This growth is attributed to implementation of the Self-Employed Enrolment Drive (SEED) initiative. The SEED programme aims to fulfil SSNIT’s mandate to extend pension coverage to all workers – including those who are self-employed.
At a SSNIT-Trades Union Congress (TUC) engagement in Accra, Dr. John Ofori-Tenkorang, SSNIT’s Director-General said: “I am hoping that maybe by end of the year we will go through another double and get about another 100,000 or so; but if we stay on the same growth path, then within a couple of years – two or three years – we will definitely hit that one million mark”.
The ultimate objective of SEED is to ensure that self-employed individuals have access to the same pension products as their counterparts in traditional office settings. It seeks to close the pension gap by including the vast informal sector workforce within the social security system.
Prior to this initiative, only about 1.9 million out of an estimated 10 million workers in the country were covered under the SSNIT scheme. Among these contributors, a mere 32,000, representing roughly two percent, were self-employed individuals. This prompted the urgent search for a more inclusive approach to pension coverage.
“We realised that for such people, they are their own CEOs, HR accountants and labourers. They don’t have a dedicated HR department to ensure the requisite contributions are remitted to SSNIT. That’s why we’ve made it easy for them to sign up, requiring only their Ghana Card. Moreover, we’ve facilitated contributions via mobile money to accommodate their work constraints,” Dr. Ofori-Tenkorang stated.
Out of approximately 6.7 million self-employed individuals, around 3.1 million are within the age range of 15 to 45 – making them eligible to join the scheme. Given the rapid growth, it is evident that there is substantial potential for further expansion in the short-term. Dr. Ofori-Tenkorang expressed confidence in the trajectory, emphasising the need to reach a point where self-employed individuals enjoy the same pension benefits as office workers.
Furthermore, Dr. Ofori-Tenkorang emphasised the cost-effectiveness of using the Ghana Card – which eliminates the need for issuing physical cards – and the electronic remittance system that has greatly improved over recent years, making the entire process more efficient and cost-effective.
SSNIT’s efforts at reaching out to self-employed individuals extend beyond the mere initiation of SEED. The organisation has deployed a nationwide campaign that includes regular engagement with self-employed associations and workplaces, aiming to educate and enrol eligible individuals onto the scheme.
Dr. Ofori-Tenkorang noted: “Every month, our staff across the country engage in ‘You Are Wanted’ activities – whereby they leave their offices to pitch tents outside and promote SEED. Additionally, our staff visit various places of work every Friday to encourage enrollment. We also run radio and television advertisements and erect billboards to draw attention to this initiative. This effort will continue indefinitely, until the last self-employed person is reached”.
The success of SSNIT’s SEED programme in increasing the number of self-employed contributors underscores a significant stride toward enhancing pension coverage in Ghana.