Diet action means workers pay more and jobless get less

The Diet on Friday enacted an amendment to the Employment Insurance Law, paving the way for the government to raise premiums on its employment insurance program and cut benefits from April 2001.

The House of Councilors approved the amendment at its plenary session in the morning. It was passed by the House of Representatives on April 14.

The amendment is intended to prevent the government’s employment insurance program from falling short of funds due to the swelling number of unemployed.

The jobless rate stood at a record-high 4.9 percent for the second consecutive month in March., reflecting the continued weakness of the economy, according to a government report released Friday. The revised law, to take effect April 1, will allow the government to raise the insurance premium rate, currently set at 0.8 percent of wages, to 1.2 percent.

Premiums for an average policyholder with an annual income of 4.7 million will increase by 9,400 yen a year.

The revised law will also authorize the government to reduce insurance benefits for the unemployed by more than 20 percent.

Under the current program, people who have lost their jobs receive insurance benefits equivalent to 50 percent to 80 percent of their wages for 90 to 300 days. The payment period will be shortened to a maximum of 180 days. under the revised law. Those forced out of work due to bankruptcies or restructuring, however, will be able to receive benefits for up to an additional 150 days.