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The National Insurance Scheme was established on 5 July 1948 to provide unemployment benefits, sickness benefit, retirement pensions and other benefits in cases where individuals meet the contribution and other qualifying conditions. Benefits due under the Scheme are paid out of the National Insurance Fund and the costs of these benefits are mainly met on a "pay-as-you-go" basis by the contributions paid by employees, employers and the self employed.

The Fund had been in healthy surplus, but this has been declining sharply in recent years to the extent that without Treasury finance the balance on the Fund is projected to fall below the recommended minimum in 2014/15.

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