Social Security is not social welfare. Welfare is charity, something someone gives us just because we need it, not because we have earned it. Social Security is insurance. We pay for it, and what we get out in benefits depends on how much we have paid in as contributions.

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights says we all have a right to social security. In many traditional societies social security is provided by an extended family that cares for its less fortunate members. In other societies social security is provided by a formal, state-sponsored insurance programme. In Sierra Leone we are fortunate to have both. In many instances the less fortunate are provided for by the family and the community on a more or less informal basis. But we also have in place a formal Social Security programme, NASSIT, designed as a safety net for people who need it, and paid for by those same people.

When we cannot work, we collect from the programme. Social Security thus insures us against the day when age, invalidity or death, prevents us from working.

Chapter 2, Section 3(a) of the Constitution states that “The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring that every citizen, without discrimination on any grounds whatsoever, shall have the opportunity for securing adequate means of livelihood as well as adequate opportunities to secure suitable employment.” While we work, we contribute to Social Security.

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