生活保護見直し 自立を促し不正許さぬ制度に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (May. 12, 2012)
Reform welfare system to help those helping themselves
生活保護見直し 自立を促し不正許さぬ制度に(5月11日付・読売社説)

As the economic situation continues to deteriorate, the number of people receiving welfare benefits has risen to almost 2.1 million. Reforming the welfare system to help people willing to work become self-reliant is an urgent task.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has presented to the Social Security Council a basic draft for discussions on reforming the welfare system. The ministry plans to flesh out welfare reform as a "livelihood support strategy" by autumn.

One prominent feature of the plan is the proposed establishment of a "working income accumulation system." Under this system, a certain proportion of the income received by a welfare recipient would be accumulated and given in a lump sum when they get off welfare.

One reason for ballooning welfare expenses has been the increase in welfare recipients in the prime of their working life. In recent years, many nonregular employees who are not enrolled in unemployment insurance immediately ended up relying on welfare benefits after losing their job.

Although people want to get off welfare, it is difficult for many to find a job that pays well. The reality is that a worker's income gradually rises as their career progresses.


Stamp out fraud

Under the current system, however, if welfare recipients work and earn income, the benefits they receive will in principle be cut by the amount they earned. Observers have pointed out that this system drains a recipient's will to get off welfare because they end up with the same amount of money regardless of whether they work or not.

Therefore, the working income accumulation system can be expected to have a positive effect in this regard. The money a worker accumulates will not result in a cut in their welfare benefits. Welfare recipients thus will be able to better prepare financially for the future and their will to work and become self-reliant will grow. Their income will increase and the government's welfare expenditures will fall.

We suggest the government quickly settle the details of the envisaged system, including the percentage of income that will be accumulated, and promptly introduce it even on a trial basis.

At the same time, it may be necessary to create more job opportunities for welfare recipients, including positions at public facilities.

Welfare benefits are expected to exceed 3.7 trillion yen this fiscal year. In the past five years, the amount has increased by as much as 1 trillion yen.

Welfare fraud must be thoroughly prevented to stop this figure from rising further. This is especially true for medical care benefits, which account for about half of total welfare benefit expenses.


LDP must lend a hand

Currently, people on welfare are exempted from paying medical expenses, and in many cases they receive more medical examinations than necessary. Also, there are unscrupulous medical institutions that earn medical treatment fees by examining mostly welfare recipients.

The ministry is discussing strengthening measures to prevent fraud, including establishing a system in which another doctor will be asked to decide whether medical examinations are being conducted appropriately. Such steps will be essential for making welfare benefit expenses more transparent.

The main opposition Liberal Democratic Party, which is discussing a counterproposal for integrated reform of the social security and tax systems, also heavily favors boosting welfare recipients' self-reliance. The LDP has presented a policy of curbing benefits by placing greater emphasis on assistance for welfare recipients trying to stand on their own feet.

A review of welfare benefit payments also is an important pillar of the integrated reform. The ruling and opposition parties should work together to advance welfare system reform from various angles.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 11, 2012)
(2012年5月11日01時28分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2012-05-13 07:01 | 英字新聞

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