New panel for pension ID task

Health and welfare minister Mr. Norihisa Tamura has decided to establish a new committee under the Social Security Council to resolve the problem of identifying millions of public pension account holders. He said that the goal of the committee is to finish identifying the account holders by the end of March 2014. The committee should continue to work even after the deadline because the problem is likely to remain for a long time to come.

The sloppy handling of records of pension premium payments by the now-defunct Social Insurance Agency became a big issue in the Diet in 2007. Mr. Akira Nagatsuma, a Democratic Party of Japan member of the Lower House, played an important role in digging out the problem. It became known that there were 50.95 million cases in which it was impossible to determine who paid pension premiums.

When the DPJ came to power in 2009 and Mr. Nagatsuma became health and welfare minister, he created under him a committee to tackle the problem. But under the Abe administration, which took power from the DPJ in the Dec. 16 Lower House election, the committee was disbanded on the grounds that it had no legal footing. In place of this committee, Mr. Tamura established the new committee.

After the pension records problem surfaced, the health and welfare ministry and the Japan Pension Service, which succeeded the SIA, are continuing the work of comparing data transferred to computers and original paper ledgers.

As of September 2012, public pension account holders had been identified in 28.73 million cases, or 56 percent of the total cases. Still the identity of holders of 22.22 million accounts or 44 percent has not yet been determined.

Of the identified account holders, some 60 percent were still alive and the remaining 40 percent were dead. As time goes on, it will become more difficult to find out who paid the pension premiums in question.

In some cases, it is impossible to find any clue as to the identity of the pension account holders. In other cases, the SIA could not get replies after sending notices of pension accounts with identity problems to likely pension account holders.

In January 2013, the Japan Pension Service started a campaign to solve the account holder identification problem. It is calling on people who changed jobs many times, who changed surnames due to marriage or whose names can be read different ways to check their records of pension premium payments. The check can be made at local pension offices.

The organization has also started an online service to look up pension accounts whose holders are not identified.

Voices within the ruling parties and the government are calling for an end to the new committee’s work after March 2014. This is an irresponsible demand in view of the fact that the problem was caused by the SIA, a government organization, and that quite a few people have been able to receive pensions as a result of the identification work.