State Minister of Labour and Social Security, Andrew Gallimore, is urging the country's youth to plan for retirement, either by contributing to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) or making other arrangements.
"I am encouraging our young persons to plan for their later years. It cannot be that you engage in a job from nine to five for 30 or 40 years and you don't have an exit strategy, or you don't have a portion of your income that has been put aside (in preparation for your retirement)," he said.
The state minister was speaking on Monday at a one-day conference staged by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund, to commemorate World Population Day, at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston.
Gallimore lamented that the NIS, "which is there to create a minimum financial benefit to persons when they reach retirement age," is not being fully embraced by the population. He noted that, currently, only 450,000 persons out of the country's workforce are contributing to the NIS, representing less than 40 per cent.
"So the question is, what is going to happen to that 60 per cent when they become senior citizens? The expectation cannot be that Government is going to have the capacity single-handedly, to provide the sort of life that we would want for our seniors," he said.
Gallimore argued that with the world's population accelerating at an unprecedented rate - doubling in 43 years; and the elderly now representing a much-larger percentage of the population than ever before, it was imperative that persons proactively plan for retirement, as the State alone would not be able to cater to the growing elderly population, given the economic climate.
Citing statistics from the PIOJ, Gallimore pointed out that the number of senior citizens in Jamaica is expected to move from 299,000 to 450,000 by the year 2030, noting that "if you have this sort of increase in the population of senior citizens in any country, it is not something that the Government alone is going to be able to deal with."
Apart from contributing to the NIS, the state minister encouraged persons, if they have the capacity, to make other arrangements for their retirement, to start doing something else that they can transition into, when they become senior citizens.
"We have seen recently what has happened with the economic crisis, and how people's fortunes have changed. Persons who were already financially secure, are no longer in that position, much less our senior citizens who are on a fixed income or no income," he said.
Gallimore explained that, given the shift in the population, not only in the number of persons, but in age, additional planning was required to see to the well-being of the nation's senior citizens who are the "foundation of this country".
The conference, which was held under the theme: 'The World at 7 Billion - Population Ageing: Implications for Development in Jamaica', seeks to build awareness of population ageing and the changes in Jamaica's population structure as well as to create opportunities for stakeholders to share ideas on topics like maximising the opportunities created by the significant increase in the working age population; business opportunities presented by ageing populations; and ensuring income security for this segment of the population.
World Population Day, celebrated annually on July 11, aims to increase people's awareness on various population issues, such as the importance of family planning, including gender equality, poverty, maternal health and human rights.