Conservative party to submit bill halting welfare for needy foreigners

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations) said Tuesday it plans to submit a revised bill to the extraordinary Diet session this fall to exclude poverty-stricken non-Japanese residents from receiving welfare benefits.

The opposition party, launched this month by conservative lawmakers including former Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, said the public assistance law should be revised in accordance with the recent landmark ruling by the Supreme Court that permanent residents of Japan are not entitled to welfare benefits for financially needy people.

“Based on the ruling, it is (our duty) to revise the public assistance law,” Hiroshi Yamada, the secretary-general of the party, told a news conference in Tokyo.

Regardless of whether foreign residents pay taxes in Japan or not, the public assistance law is only for “Japanese nationals,” he stressed. Another law should be created to deal with foreigners, he said.

The Supreme Court ruled in July that permanent foreign residents of Japan are ineligible for welfare benefits, in response to a lawsuit filed by an 82-year-old Chinese woman with permanent residency.

The public assistance law stipulates that only Japanese nationals are eligible to receive the welfare payments. Even so, municipalities have been providing welfare benefits, such as monthly stipends for living expenses and housing, to financially needy foreigners with permanent or long-term residency status for years.

This practice was based on advice issued by the central government in 1954 to accept applications from foreigners in dire need of aid from a “humanitarian” point of view.

The conservative opposition party, headed by Takeo Hiranuma, was officially established on Aug. 1 after breaking from Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party). Its basic policies, unveiled in July, include denying non-Japanese residents the right to vote in national or local elections as well as introducing stricter standards for foreigners to obtain citizenship.

  • gokyo

    In short these lawmakers want to codify a situation that says “We recognize your equality to pay taxes but we do not recognize your equality in humanity.” By passing this legislation they want to actually prevent municipalities from deciding on their own to follow the advice of 1954.

    • phu

      And further ingraining the idea that the “humanitarian point of view” cited in the article means Japanese, not “humans.” I’d call this by far the most discouraging aspect of Japanese culture for foreigners: The ever-increasing lack of even basic consideration for non-ethnic-Japanese.

  • Peter

    Look on the bright side. This filthy old xenophobe Ishihara is 82, so he will only be in the Diet for another 20 years or so.
    (Ah damn, there is no bright side….)
    Actually, the true bright side is that his party will probably die before the next election, not him personally. I mean come on, “The Party For Next Generations” being led by a geriatric? The comedians hired to assign silly names to new parties have really taken the cake this time.

  • Stephen Kent

    I’d just like to know what their motive is for submitting such a bill. Everyone knows that Japan doesn’t make it easy for foreign people to come and live in the country, and the vast majority (probably everyone other than the six refugees that are accepted per year) need proof of employment to get a visa, so if any non-Japanese person is trying to claim welfare it more than likely means that either they have lost their job or they have worked until retirement and are struggling to make ends meet with their pension. In other words, something has very likely gone wrong. So if this “jisedai no to” are submitting their bill in the name of saving money I find it despicable that they are trying to do so by trampling on a minority of people who presumably don’t even receive that much welfare money anyway given how few their comparative numbers must.

    Instead of going after the defenceless, if you want to save money why not try and eliminate the massive, institutionalised, legalised corruption that is the “amakudari” system in which bureaucrats divert the budgets they are in charge of to companies they hold shares in and have awarded contracts to in order to perform tasks that aren’t needed? Might it be because doing something like this would involve taking on people who actually have the power and means to fight back against these paranoid old xenophobes? Or that they or their friends benefit from such a system?

    Japan has too many other fiscal, administrative, and structural problems to be wasting parliamentary time trying to pass laws that will just end up punishing people who have more than likely done nothing wrong and close the door on a potential solution to labour shortage and population decline, but since the motivation of the people proposing the law is based on an ideology that can at best be described as opportunistic xenophobia then I doubt they care about pragmatic solutions to relevant problems.

    • Steve Jackman

      As for the motive behind the bill, it is most certainly not about money, as you correctly pointed out. I’m sure the real reasons are twofold, one aimed at Japanese and the other at foreign residents of Japan.

      First, by making this appear to be a problem, it reinforces the (incorrect) impression in the minds of many mainstream Japanese that foreign residents are mooching off the Japan and taking advantage of the Japanese system.

      Second, it sends a strong message to foreign residents that they are unwanted, lacking in rights, second-class and will forever be outsiders in Japan, regardless of their contributions and length of stay in Japan.

      In this respect, passage of the bill is almost secondary, since the sponsors would have achieved these two objectives just by virtue of submitting it to the Diet.

  • J.P. Bunny

    “Yokoso Japan.” Feel free to live here, work, contribute to society, pay taxes, and volunteer during natural disasters. Just don’t expect anything if you happen to fall upon hard times.

  • doninjapan

    Further encouraging no foreigner to stay in Japan on a permanent basis… if this were to ever happen. Gee, I wonder how the nation’d cope then?

  • Jameika

    Because everyone knows that what leads to stability in a society is facilitating poverty.
    Ugh.
    Really thinking of those future generations, aren’t you?

  • cp

    He must be mentally ill to think in this way which it looks like his thinking is of 19th century, grow up old man it 21st century and 2014.Your thought have no more value in today’s world. It will harm more to Japan than will benefit.

  • Beletskiy Pavel

    I pay a lot of taxes. This country no so good for living.

  • Oliver Mackie

    But the bill won’t pass…..

  • GBR48

    Unpleasant as this is, it merits some international context. In every Western nation you’ll find a right wing political party wanting to do pretty much the same thing. You don’t have to be an inhumane, racist xenophobe to be politically right-wing, but it helps, and you’d certainly find yourself at home.

    Most countries start from a more multicultural basis than Japan does, so inevitably the Japanese take on right wing politics is always going to be that bit more unpalatable and extreme. Globally, right wing parties come up with this sort of thing all the time-it’s a good marker as to what is unacceptable amongst civilised people in the political mainstream. This is a bill submitted by an opposition party, which in most countries means it would never even come close to becoming law.

    One thing is certain: in the light of recent decisions, regulations on welfare payments to ‘non-natives’ (for want of a better term) do need to be sorted out and codified, but not by excluding them. Any attitude that embodies racial purity as a distinguishing marker in unequal treatment, should send up plenty of red flags (ones with little swastikas on them).

    The Japanese government really need to sort out and publicly make clear its attitude on these issues. At present, the message that people are welcome to visit and spend money, just so long as they bugger off again straight afterwards, isn’t doing the national image any favours. And you can bet that some sections of the Chinese media lap up this sort of thing, offering as it does, an opportunity to drag Japan’s name through the mud. Right wing political parties are a rich source of national embarrassment.

    With a declining population, ossifying corporations, and a commercial and governmental structure that defies genuine reform, some changes in Japan would be beneficial. The larger cities have plenty of foreign tourists for a considerable chunk of the year. Having a few more foreigners resident all year round and actually treating them equally is not going to flush Japan’s culture, heritage and social cohesion down the toilet. People who make their home in another nation usually make real efforts to integrate, and some of us are actually quite nice people.

  • someoneyoudonotknow

    Absolutely disgusting and cowardly behaviour to attack society’s most vulnerable and create a two-tier society with the excuse of “… it is (our duty) to revise the public assistance law,” . Never mind that immigrants around the world usually work twice as hard for less pay and contribute taxes to help maintain a society. I shall remember this animal and his vile party. He’s worse than UKIP.

  • Oliver Mackie

    “As a visitor to Japan I find it offensive to be referred to as a “foreigner” rather than a foreign national.”

    Sorry, but are you talking about the Japanese or English language? If you are talking about the former, then you are referred to officially as a 外国人 which is not definitely translated into either in English. If you are referred to the latter then I assume you are talking about how you are referred to on official forms etc that have been provided (for your convenience) in English translations. In that case, there is no uniform translation, though I suspect the the word ‘foreigner’ remains common, as does the rather dated ‘alien.’ (nanu, nanu!)

    “I have visited and lived in China for extended periods of time I have met many minorities who have lived worked and contributed to China longer than some of their locally born colleagues who insist on referring to them as foreigners.”

    Presumably your locally born Chinese colleagues don’t refer to them as “foreigners” in English, as they use a particular Chinese dialect, not English. If so, how can you decide if the correct translation (if such a thing exists) is ‘foreigner’ as opposed to ‘foreign national’? Besides…..

    “I am under the impression that non-English speaking people don’t understand that the “er” on the end of the word “foreigner” to describe a person or people often causes offense to the receiver.”

    Offense is in the mind of the beholder. I have no idea why you would be offended by being called in English a ‘foreigner’ but be fine with ‘foreign national.’ Surely, the intent of the speaker is the key issue….

    • Greg Green

      As a native English-speaker and an English teacher I’m quite confident about my English. Your explanations try to simplify an issue that is not simple.

      As a Hong Kong person with Chinese nationality, I am Chinese. The fact that I or others are white (Caucasian) doesn’t change the fact that we are Chinese. If I visit Japan or any other country and I fill in the arrival card I would write Chinese under nationality, that is my nationality.

      As I mentioned others that I know who have lived in China longer than their Chinese colleagues have been referred to as “foreigners” in English, many middle-management employees in China can speak English fairly well and like to practice with native speakers. Most people from North America, the most welcoming societies on the planet, feel strange at best and offended at worst to be referred to as a foreigner, especially if it is simply based on race. I know that that is not the case in this article but if a person is living in Japan in such a capacity that s/he would even be considered eligible for social benefits, I would hardly call them a foreigner as they are a legal resident of Japan.

      The word foreign means strange or unknown in English and adding “er” to the end of the word can change it into either a noun or an adjective. All to often it is used as a word to describe a person by their appearance which means it is being used as an adjective. In most developed societies that is called racism and it is frowned upon. No one would call an American of Chinese or Japanese heritage a foreigner in the states or Canada. In either case, those residents of Japan are not strange or unknown in Japan so at least in English, they are not foreign or foreigners but legal Japanese residents. Given the fact they hold a foreign passport they are foreign nationals.

    • Greg Green

      P.S.
      “Offense is in the mind of the beholder.”
      From both a social and psychological perspective there are social norms, something a majority of the population accept as being “normal” or socially acceptable or not to cause psychological trauma to another person. That is why it is considered very bad to call a black person the “n” word, which also ends with the previously mentioned “er”. Or if you saw a person you consider to be unattractive you wouldn’t likely say to their face that they are ugly, it would probably cause offense and it is socially unacceptable to do so and could harm the psychological well being of the person you are talking to.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. For reasons related to another article/thread, I have stopped participating in discussions on the Japan Times site.

  • vonjunk

    Is anyone holding their breath that he’ll be drawing up a fair and equitable law for tax paying permanent residents? Logically, it should be included in his bill. A good bill would be either giving permanent residents the same rights or excluding them from welfare but freeing them from all tax associated with supporting the welfare system.