Despite the growth policies implemented by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dubbed as “Abenomics,” a number of people still rely on the public assistance given out by the government. January marked the fourth straight month that the number of welfare recipients continue to rise, a stark contrast against the expansionary and economic revival claims of Abe‘s administration.
Japan’s ageing society has contributed to the rise of welfare recipients in the recent months. More people aged 65 years and older are turning to welfare due to their paltry pensions. And with Abe imposing stricter policies and application procedures last year, many accuse him of worsening the situation. A 6.5 percent decrease in welfare benefits and rigid application process to eliminate fraud was implemented last year, which greatly affected those relying on welfare. While land and stock prices have jumped, benefitting the wealthy, regular employees’ wages remain the same. And with the recent implementation of increase in the consumption tax, those living on meager incomes will be affected the most.
With the trends in employment changing drastically, the former lifetime employment trend now being replaced with part-time or causal workers, many have expressed concerns on the increasing number of working poor. Big Issue Japan chief executive Shiji Sano noted that “Abenomics” does not affect wealthy and poor people in the same way. With the national old-age pension paying less than welfare, many who earn less than what the government has dictated as adequate income have shifted to public assistance with aid of ¥60,000 – ¥80,000 for singles and up to ¥90,000 – ¥120,000 for couples.
While the labor market has improved in the past months, with 600 households who have a family member capable of working relying on public assistance, a high 1,500 families aged 65 years and older have received public assistance in January. But as welfare continues to grow in the country, a small 1.6 percent of the nation’s whole population receives basic assistance, compared to other developed countries such as Germany and the United Kingdom, which has 9 percent according to the Japan Federation of Bar Associations. On the other hand, not all who are qualified for the public assistance program use it. Sano noted that “people don’t want their situations known, so they avoid the system” and in recent situations, the organization had to convince people that it is “not something that is embarrassing or need to be hidden.”
[via Financial Times]