KNOW YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY: Age pension

The emerging issue of demographic aging is becoming an increasing concern of regional social security systems. The Antigua & Barbuda Social Security Board (ABSSB) is no exception.

This shift in the population structure has resulted from a combination of the increasing life expectancy and a slowdown in fertility rates.  Research revealed that the life expectancy increased on average by about 12 years during the last decade of the 20th century and currently stands at approximately 78.6 years.  Further, the increasing dependency rate of the elderly population, that is, those 60 years and older to those of SS contributors (16 – 59 years) is of great concern.  Emigration is also a critical area of consideration, all of which will ultimately lead to a substantial increase in the financing of a single pension.

For 2010, the national old-age dependency ratio was 15.4 per cent.  As such, the age pension expenditure will continue to increase, because a larger number of pensioners will become dependent on the working population for support.

In other words, the ABSSB is likely to face the situation where an increasingly high proportion of pensioners will need to be supported by a continuously decreasing labour force.  Thus, as the population ages, this ratio will fall dramatically in the coming decades.

The ABSSB’s fiscal situation is compounded by two critical factors – the maturing of the system and the demographic aging phenomenon.  During 2010, age pension accounted for 82.3 per cent of total benefit expenditure and is actuarially projected to account for more than 90 per cent of benefit spending in the future.

A number of amendments have been made to the age pension benefit provided by Social Security since 1976.  At present, the maximum pension is $2,250 or 50 per cent of the Social Security contribution ceiling of $4,500, while the minimum pension stands at $350.

As a traditional defined benefit system, the ABSSB’s contributors become eligible for a full pension at age 60 if they have made at least 500 weeks of contributions. Reduced pensions (partial pensions) or lump-sum grants (age grants) can be claimed by those with fewer than 500 weeks of contributions. There are also two special pensions (transitional pensions – for those whose working years may have been primarily before Social Security became operational in 1973 and old age assistance – a non-contributory age pension).  The specific requirements are stated below

AGE PENSION

Contribution requirement

Transitional pension: 156 weekly paid or credited contributions if contributor’s first contribution was made before 1975

Reduced pension: paid or credited 350 – 499 contributions

Full pension: At least 500 contributions

AGE REQUIREMENT

The pension is not dependent on retirement from the workforce.  Therefore, no deductions should be taken from persons in the workforce who have attained the age of 60+ years.

AMOUNT OF BENEFIT: 25 per cent of average insurable earnings over the best 5 years out of the last 10 years worked, plus 1 per cent for every set of 50 contributions over 500. If between 350 and 500 contributions have been paid, the insured qualifies for a Reduced Age Pension of 25 per cent of average insurable earnings times the number of paid weeks divided by 500.

Maximum: $2,250 per month

Minimum: $350 per month

AGE GRANT

CONTRIBUTION REQUIREMENT

At least 26 paid contributions starting before 1975 or at least 50 contributions starting any time after 1974

ELIGIBILITY: The person must be ineligible for Age Pension

AGE REQUIREMENT: 60

AMOUNT OF BENEFIT: 75 per cent of the total contributions (employer & employee) paid or $1,200, whichever is greater. This amount is paid as a lump sum.

Once pension payments have begun, persons residing in Antigua & Barbuda must submit a completed life certificate during the months of June and December for pension payments to continue. Persons who live overseas must complete a life certificate each quarter – March, June, September and December.

For a pension cheque to be issued to someone other than the pensioner, a written authorisation to the director is required. The person to whom the cheque is to be issued must present the pensioner’s Social Security card, the signed letter of authorisation and a valid photo ID before the pension cheque will be issued.

For additional information on Age Pension or any other Social Security issue, please contact the Social Security office at: Know Your Social Security, Antigua & Barbuda Social Security Board, PO Box 1125, St John’s, Antigua or email us at: res.comm@socialsecurity.gov.ag.

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