My Number, the new personal identification system for social security and taxation matters, kicked off Monday amid data security fears as local governments struggled to distribute the ID cards.
The randomly generated 12-digit ID numbers, which the holders will basically keep for life, will be needed to make use of public assistance and services, including national health insurance, and to receive tax benefits.
Although the government hopes My Number will improve administrative efficiency, the benefits for most people will be hardly noticeable.
The ID cards will bear the holder’s photo, name, address, sex and date of birth on the front and contain an IC chip.
The My Number cards will function as an official ID and can be used to file income tax returns online.
About 2.3 million applications for the cards had been filed as of Dec. 22, according to the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry.
Officials hope that from July 2017, when the central and local governments plan to start sharing the data, the My Number system will reduce labor by doing away with the need to provide additional records or documentation when using social services.
The government also hopes the computerized system will help more people benefit from services offered to residents and businesses.
Delivery of My Number notifications started in October, but Japan Post Co. said as many as 5.58 million had come back as of Dec. 27 because the intended recipients had moved. Municipalities will store the notifications for three months before disposing of them.
In some areas in the city of Osaka, however, notices have yet to be issued, and the offices responsible are planning to start delivery this month.