Abe says help on way in pension fiasco

by Hiroko Nakata

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured the public Friday that steps will be taken to ensure that data on pension premium payments get straightened out following the discovery of widespread mistakes in the Social Insurance Agency’s pension records.

The Social Insurance Agency, which manages the pension system, has reportedly said that data on 50 million premium payments has been scrambled, preventing it from identifying those who made the payments and how much they paid. This means that some people are likely receiving smaller pensions than they should be.

“What is important is that the state pension programs are based on public trust,” Abe told the House of Representatives health and labor committee. “I have told (the health ministry) to handle the problem properly.”

Abe said the government would help by creating a law to abolish the statute of limitations on the 50 million cases. People usually have to apply for pensions within five years of retiring. He added the government will ask those already on pensions to confirm that all of their payments were accurately recorded.

Abe made the remarks before the committee approved a bill to reform the agency.

Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Hakuo Yanagisawa, who supervises the agency, said the government will first notify 3,000 people on pensions that the Social Insurance Agency may not have all of their payment information on file.

The problem started in 1997, when the agency computerized its payment records and issued universal pension identification numbers.

Prior to 1997, the agency gave out a new number every time a person changed jobs or applied to the plan as an individual. After the new system was implemented, the agency did not properly collect all of the data. The problem gets even more complicated for women who re-entered the job market after getting married and changing their names.