Social security a bigger worry than economy

Nearly 70 percent of people in a recent survey hope the government will work for better social security services, topping for the first time the number of those demanding economic stimulus policies, the Cabinet Office said Saturday.

According to this year’s survey on daily livelihood, 67.7 percent of the respondents said the government should reform social security programs like health care and pensions. The figure is up 5.8 percentage points from last year.

Meanwhile, 58.6 percent said the government should stimulate the economy, down 8.8 points from last year.

Economic stimulus had topped the list every year since 1998, when the government began checking what people expect. The annual survey, on which multiple answers are allowed, was introduced in 1958.

An official suggested that the results reflect increasing public interest in the Diet debate on controversial pension reforms and more people feeling the economy has been emerging from recession.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s governing coalition has been taken to task for railroading a set of pension system reform bills through the Diet in June despite strong opposition. Many of Koizumi’s comments on the reforms were branded as careless and even baffled lawmakers in the coalition led by his own Liberal Democratic Party.

The Cabinet Office’s survey, conducted June 24 to July 4, coincided with the pension debate in the Diet. It drew responses from 7,005 people aged 20 and older.

Among other responses, 49.8 percent, down 1.6 points, urged the government to take more measures in connection with the aging society; 41.3 percent, down 1.6 points, on unemployment; 37 percent, up 5.4 points, on crime; 29.6 percent, down 0.6 points, on environmental issues; and 28.9 percent, up 7.3 points, on the falling birthrate.

Women appear to be more concerned about social security reform, with 72.9 percent saying they want the government to tackle such issues, as compared to 61.5 percent for men.

By age group, respondents in their 60s showed the most interest in social security issues, with 77.6 percent of women and 66.9 percent of men in that age bracket listing it among their answers.

Meanwhile, 25.7 percent of respondents said they feel their daily lives will get worse, down 5.6 points from the previous survey.

Asked about their current income levels, 54.8 percent said they are dissatisfied, down 2.8 points compared with last year. As for their assets and savings, 59.3 percent expressed dissatisfaction, a decline of 3.1 percent.