Govt must do more to help welfare recipients find jobs
The number of people receiving welfare benefits in Japan has reached a new record of 2.11 million, and they are expected to receive a total of 3.7 trillion yen this fiscal year.
The government must knuckle down to help people who need financial help become self-reliant.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has drafted a set of measures to help people who need financial help. The measures--the first of their kind--focus on job assistance. The ministry plans to compile a livelihood support strategy by the end of this year and submit related bills during an ordinary Diet session next year.
About 300,000 welfare recipients are working-age people who have no jobs despite being capable of working. The proportion of such recipients has more than doubled over the past decade.
This is apparently the result of the nation's prolonged economic malaise. An increase in the number of nonregular employees who have no employment insurance has become a major contributing factor to this trend.
According to the draft, the ministry would provide welfare recipients with opportunities to try light work in collaboration with local governments, companies and other organizations. This aims to help them restore their life rhythm, thus encouraging them to secure stable jobs.
Rent assistance needed
The draft also proposes a scheme under which a portion of income a welfare recipient earns from work would be accumulated and given in a lump sum when they get off welfare.
It calls for establishing such a framework because welfare recipients have their benefits reduced if they have an income.
We believe it is crucial to introduce measures like this one that motivate welfare recipients to join the workforce.
It also is important to help them find places to live. The draft calls for providing in-kind benefits by having local governments pay their rent to landlords.
This would encourage landlords to rent rooms to welfare recipients because they would no longer have to worry about nonpayment of rent.
While encouraging welfare recipients to help themselves, it is also important to prevent low-income earners from reaching the point where they require welfare benefits.
There have been reports that 25 percent of welfare recipients had parents who also received benefits. They must be helped to break the chain of poverty being passed from parents to children.
Many of these recipients graduated only from middle school or dropped out of high school.
This clearly shows that people from families receiving welfare benefits often have fewer education opportunities than people from households not on welfare.
The nation's small public expenditure on education has been blamed as a major factor for this trend.
Families also have responsibility
The ministry draft calls for providing learning support to children from households receiving welfare benefits, such as collaborating with the private sector to offer remedial classes to meet the needs of their families and local communities.
It is natural that relatives should be asked to explain why they do not support a family member facing financial difficulties even though they have a duty to do so. Even the mother of a popular comedian was recently found to have received welfare benefits.
Of course, it is also necessary to ensure people do not illegally receive welfare benefits.
Nevertheless, the elderly are the fastest growing group among welfare recipients due to the rapid graying of society and an increasing number of senior citizens who receive low pensions.
People who receive only basic pension payments have to get by on just 49,000 yen per month on average.
Reforming the welfare system should be conducted comprehensively along with overhauls in other fields, including employment, education and pensions.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 4, 2012)