Safety net is for all taxpayers

The Supreme Court ruled July 18 that foreigners living in Japan, even with permanent residency status, are not entitled to receive welfare benefits known as seikatsu hogo, literally livelihood protection. It is the first ruling that considers foreigners ineligible for such benefits. The ruling sends an unfortunate message to foreign workers that while their contributions to Japan’s economy might be welcome, the government, in turn, is not obliged to take care of them when they are in need.

The court case involved an 82-year-old Chinese woman with permanent residency status who had her application for welfare benefits rejected by the municipal government of the city of Oita.

Though the Fukuoka High Court had supported the woman’s claim, the Supreme Court overturned its judgment. The top court claimed that the livelihood protection law covers only Japanese, meaning foreigners are not eligible for benefits regardless of their visa status or other considerations.

Japan has long had an ambivalent attitude to non-Japanese workers, but this ruling gives the legal right to municipal authorities to withhold assistance to non-Japanese residents whenever they choose.

The ruling also means that even foreign nationals who have paid public health insurance premiums and met public pension requirements will not be guaranteed financial support should they need it. The increasing number of foreign nationals who are born in Japan, work and live their lives here have no guarantee, either.

Oddly, the ruling suggests that the government will give such benefits to anyone with Japanese nationality, even if they spent all of their life abroad, or have not contributed to taxes, public health insurance or the state pension program. Under this ruling, a Japanese national who has never worked in their life would receive benefits, while a foreign national who worked all their life in Japan but never took Japanese nationality can be denied.

The ruling will also have an impact on the large number of Koreans and Chinese whose families have lived in Japan for several generations but have not taken Japanese nationality. The non-Japanese spouses of Japanese and migrant workers from Brazil and other countries may also now be excluded.

The court’s ruling sends the message that Japanese benefits are for Japanese nationals. That codifies the outdated notion of who is supposed to benefit from Japan’s social benefits — not all those who work here, but only Japanese.

The Diet needs to act to establish a law guaranteeing benefits on a fair and equitable basis to foreigners who have contributed to public pension and health insurance plans, paid taxes and established a household or significant ties to Japan. The right to benefits that help keep people safe, healthy and out of poverty should be a guaranteed human right, not a decision made at the discretion of local officials.

  • Steve Jackman

    Excellent editorial that shows once again why many like myself consider this to be the best newspaper in Japan (among both Japanese and English newspapers).

  • Ron NJ

    To be fair, they had to rule according to the law – the law says that only ‘kokumin’ can receive benefits. If they had ruled otherwise, they would have thus implied that ‘kokumin’ includes non-citizens, which would have had pretty widespread implications on many other laws and policies.
    It’s a terrible outcome but mostly because of terrible wording in law. Even I find it hard to find fault with the Supreme Court on this one – foreigners had only ever been receiving benefits due to a directive passed down from (I believe) the Ministry of Health and Welfare that suggested that foreigners be given the same considerations as Japanese citizens in terms of welfare benefits (ignoring the fact that such a directive flies squarely in the face of the wording of the law).
    The real problem here is that the Public Assistance act (and the constitution) needs to be rewritten to use a word other than ‘kokumin’. They could easily substitute any of a number of other words in a variety of laws such as this so that foreigners could receive benefits as they had been doing under the directive, much like they could use a different word in the constitution so that foreigners could be afforded the same protections against racial, sexual, and other discrimination that presently only citizens enjoy. The problem is that the government does not want to do this, the citizens don’t care (out of sight, out of mind), and thanks to Japan’s revolving door immigration policy (or lack of an immigration policy, I should say, since it’s obvious that Japan wants foreigners to come, spend their money, then leave rather than stay), there is little in the way of a concerted voice for foreign residents of Japan, nor any homegrown groups of which I am aware that work towards our integration.

  • http://www.sheldonthinks.com/ Andrew Sheldon

    Really, these rulings don’t necessarily say anything, since courts are reluctant to define what they actually mean. You have to look at any person’s specific context. Useless legal system. Cowardly people lacking coherent conviction in powerful positions. Given that, you might think its good that they are conservative, but I think better still if they were discredited, so that we might achieve an anarcho-capitalist regime.

    • warota

      I think you’re focusing too much on the end user perspective. On the other side, they now have more options to pick and choose from in order to do what they want. And it’s all legal.

  • warota

    > Welfare benefits are means tested. Just being a citizen does not guarantee that you will receive them if you apply.

    > Welfare (income support) is the
    one and only benefit with a statement of nationality.

    OK so far…

    > I am not a Japanese citizen. I get a Japanese state pension despite having paid in for only two years.

    Last I heard, pensions have nothing to do with this ruling. Only welfare benefits. But I admire your bravery for trying to use a personal anecdote with something completely unrelated as an argument for legitimizing denial of welfare based on nationality even though they are forced to pay in.

    > Further, I would note that US policy is quite restrictive and
    discretionary when it comes to legal foreign residents receiving welfare benefits.

    The foreign poor and elderly in Japan who are forced to pay in and are the most dependant on welfare are forever indebted for your tireless research efforts into American welfare policy.

    • Earl Kinmonth

      You are correct that the ruling had nothing to do with pensions BUT some commentators have been linking other entitlements such as pensions to this ruling. The US material was provided because some commentators have been suggesting that the Japanese court ruling violates some general, universally accepted principle of equity. The US is often presented as the “gold standard” or “global standard” by which Japan is to be judged. Therefore, I provided some information on the US. Since you seem to be very interested in the plight of the “foreign poor and elderly in Japan,” may I ask what is it that you have done to help them? It is not obvious to me how trolling my posts will help them. You will also need to explain this to me. “I admire your bravery for trying to use a personal anecdote with
      something completely unrelated as an argument for legitimizing denial of
      welfare based on nationality even though they are forced to pay in.” (1) Show me how I use this to legitimize denial. (2) There is no guarantee that any one foreign resident who applies for welfare has actually paid anything into the system. Someone who gains PR as a dependent may never have paid a single yen in taxes. (3) It is my understanding that the welfare in question is not funded by a specific compulsory or quasi-compulsory levy as is the case for pensions or unemployment insurance. It is funded out of general revenue. (4) It is a sad (?) fact that in Japan, as in many countries, having PR does require you to pay full whack taxes but does not carry full whack rights. For example, in the three countries I know (UK, US, Japan) you get to pay taxes the support the national civil service but you yourself cannot hold a national government civil service post. If you want full rights, get naturalized.

      • MeTed

        I appreciate your comments Earl.

        I like the Japan Times, but they can be guilty of not giving the full picture, or purposefully being unclear.

        “The ruling also means that even foreign nationals who have paid public
        health insurance premiums and met public pension requirements will not
        be guaranteed financial support should they need it.” This sounded very much like pensions may not be paid to a foreigner who paid in, but if you read carefully it is not the case. Linking the issue of pensions with financial support is deceptive.

        Is there a reason you get the pension after only two years of paying in, such as you have paid into a program in a country with reciprocal arrangements with Japan? Or is there another way to get it?

      • Earl Kinmonth

        There was (past tense) a system called kara-kikan (blank period) that allowed Japanese citizens AND permanent residents to deduct the years they lived and worked outside of Japan from the minimum number of years paying into the scheme. I qualified under this provision. I do not, of course, get a full whack state pension but one prorated according to the years I paid in.

      • warota

        Oh really. So who brought up the US as a gold standard of welfare and compared it to Japan? I have a feeling it’s yet another tu quoque of yours.

        I haven’t done anything for the foreign poor and elderly in Japan. You’ll notice, however, that this is still a lot better than trying to legimitize denying benefits they’re forced to pay into on the basis of nationality instead of financial need.

        > (1) Show me how I use this to legitimize denial.
        > If you want full rights, get naturalized.

        Done.

        > (2) There is no guarantee that any one foreign resident who applies for welfare has actually paid anything into the system. Someone who gains PR as a dependent may never have paid a single yen in taxes.

        No kidding? This is the same for citizens and both are forced to pay in under the same conditions. The only difference is that non-citizens have another legal method to be denied benefits that have nothing to do with financial need.

        > (3) It is my understanding that the welfare in question is not funded by a specific compulsory or quasi-compulsory levy as is the case for pensions or unemployment insurance. It is funded out of general revenue.

        “General revenue” at the federal level includes income tax and the consumption tax. 75% of welfare funds is paid by these federal taxes while 25% is footed by civic taxes (eg. juminzei). ie. while there is no specific tax, both citizens and non-citizens pay into it under the same conditions and cannot avoid doing so.

        > (4) It is a sad (?) fact that in Japan, as in many countries, having PR does require you to pay full whack taxes but does not carry full whack rights. For example, in the three countries I know (UK, US, Japan) you get to pay taxes the support the national civil service but you yourself cannot hold a national government civil service post.

        Rights to holding civic positions and the like are for people who are likely not going to worry about surviving on welfare in the first place.

        > If you want full rights, get naturalized.

        Why don’t we just take this to its logical conclusion and just deny welfare to all non-citizens from now on? Think of all the money it will save. I guess you’re wondering in disbelief why all this time that the federal government just doesn’t do this, hmm?

    • http://www.turning-japanese.info/ Eido INOUE

      Last I heard, pensions have nothing to do with this ruling.

      Others might not know this from reading this deceptive editorial. The last paragraph throws out the red herring:

      establish a law guaranteeing benefits on a fair and equitable basis to foreigners who have contributed to public pension and health insurance plans

      … as well as using the umbrella word “benefits” rather than the specific term “livelihood protection welfare” in order to confuse some readers into thinking that they might not be entitled to their pension and insurance contributions anymore.

      • warota

        Fair enough. All it needs is pointing out that this ruling affects only welfare and not pensions. Problem solved.

        My comment was in response to Earl trying to use similar confusing tactics of his own pension case.

        However, given this ruling, people are going to be worried if this may affect other “benefits” in the future given the country’s financial state and prospects.

      • Greg Estelcherry

        Yes, a lot of conflating these welfare payments with other social benefits is (willfully?) obscuring the situation.
        The most salient difference between seikatsu-hogo and pensions are that your pension is *yours*. You pay into your pension directly. It has your name on it.
        Seikatsu-hogo, on the other hand, derives from the communal pot that all have paid into.

  • Anon0920

    The simple solution would be to Naturalize in my opinion…

    “BUT, I have an attachment to another country that prevents me from doing so for one reason or another…”

    Tough luck.

    • Steve Jackman

      Japan makes it very difficult for some to naturalize. If it did not have such a narrow-minded binary way of thinking, it would allow people to hold dual nationality. Most other developed countries have evolved to the point of accepting that we do not live in a black-or-white world and they allow their nationals to hold dual nationality. People have varied reasons for wanting to have dual nationality, including those who come from biracial backgrounds.

      • http://www.turning-japanese.info/ Eido INOUE

        Nationality is not, nor should it ever be in a modern state, used as proof or symbolization of race (“biracial”) or ethnicity or identity/”background”. It is a legal connection to a sovereign state and its laws (no matter where you live) — laws which may conflict with other sovereign states (no matter where you live), which is why some countries are not thrilled about it.

    • OsFish

      No, the simplest solution would be for the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare notice, that effectively already grants access to seikatsuhogo to certain broad categories of foreigners, to be incorporated into law. The article fails to mention this notice, which is one of its chief failings.

      Special Permanent Residents should be treated as citizens in terms of welfare. Other long-term residents who head a household have generally already been tested for economic viability as a requirement of their residence status. They are clearly not here to “scrounge”, and we shouldn’t have any kind of silly moral panic that they are.

      I really don’t understand the idea that one has to surrender one’s prior nationality in order to have one’s destitution become a social reality.

      • http://www.turning-japanese.info/ Eido INOUE

        Recognized refugees/asylum seekers should be another class: even though they were not tested for being able to support themselves and are probably teijūsha not PR/SPR; returning to their country, for these people, is not a realistic option.

      • OsFish

        Yes – and refugees are specifically included in the 1990 oral clarification from the ministry as to the meaning of the 1954 notice (as are the spouse of PRs and the foreign spouses of Japanese).

  • http://www.turning-japanese.info/ Eido INOUE

    “Safety net is for all taxpayers.”

    What a crock headline. People that don’t pay taxes and have never payed taxes are still entitled to receive welfare / livelihood protection / “the safety net”.

    “Ah! But they are/were paying Consumption Tax!” you say. Actually, there is a sub-segment of society (albeit tiny in Japan) that were born into poverty, lived off the land or what their parents and friends gave them, and become adults starting life in poverty. They’ve paid hardly anything, if anything, in consumption or any other sort of tax. Yet these People are entitled to this sort of traditional welfare. That’s kind of the point of welfare:

    The People who are least able to pay taxes (or pay for other consumable goods and services) should be able to receive it.

    • Steve Jackman

      I fail to see the point you’re trying to make in your comment. Nowhere does the editorial say that people in poverty should not be able to receive welfare benefits.

      Since, the editorial is focused on the recent Supreme Court ruling denying welfare benefits to non-Japanese residents, it is emphasizing that foreign residents should be eligible to receive welfare benefits because they pay taxes like everyone else.

      You’re fluent in Japanese, so you should be familiar with the popular discourse in Japanese media, with its constant drumbeat that foreign residents are a burden on Japan since they live off welfare benefits without contributing any taxes. I can just imagine your reaction if the JT editorial stated that even those non-Japanese residents who don’t pay taxes should be entitled to equal benefits as Japanese citizens.

      • http://www.turning-japanese.info/ Eido INOUE

        popular discourse in Japanese media, with its constant drumbeat that foreign residents are a burden on Japan since they live off welfare benefits without contributing any taxes.

        You’ve got a source for that (Japanese or English)? And no, 2ch or somebody’s blog do not count as “popular discourse in Japanese media [and its] constant drumbeat”?

        I actually do believe, as I wrote in the other articles in the comments, that certain classes (not all) of foreigners in Japan should be entitled to qualify for welfare, so you must have quite an imagination.

      • Steve Jackman

        Really, Eido, you have not been keeping on top of Japanese news the last few years? I’ve heard this topic discussed on several Japanese TV shows and in print media.

        How about the news published in Yukan Fuji, a newspaer with a daily circulation in excess of 150,000 papers, on May 25, 2012, with the headline, “Malicious Foreign Welfare Recepients Increasing Rapidly”? I guess, you missed this story on the front page of this newspaper.

      • http://www.turning-japanese.info/ Eido INOUE

        The Yūkan Fuji? hahaha! Yeah, major paper right there. I read that tabloid every day, along with Nikkan Gendai and Tokyo Sports. What’s next? You going to start referring to the NY Post as an authoritative popular pulse on U.S. politics? What? You don’t read the NY Post? Circulation over 500K. I guess you don’t follow U.S. news and know what Americans think then.

        150K circulation is little league in Japan btw; not even top ten. Still, JT would kill for those numbers (circulation currently less than 70K).

        Thanks for Googling your answer, though! I guess I should’ve added “trashy tabloids” to the “don’t count” conditions.

      • Steve Jackman

        You are confusing news coverage about serious news and “popular discourse”, which is what I wrote about in my original comment. I do not consider Yukan Fuji to be an authoratative souce for serious news, but there is no question that it is part of the popular discourse in Japan. Ride any train line in the Tokyo area and you are bound to see salarymen reading Yukan Fuji on their commutes. You asked me for an example and I gave you one. Now, you’re backtracking.

        Furthermore, as I wrote earlier, I have heard similar comments on Japanese TV programs, but since I do not make a habit of writing down the dates, times and name of the show, I do not have an exact record of these. Your denying this means that you are either blissfully ignorant of topics being discussed in Japanese media, or you are being disingenuous.

      • http://www.turning-japanese.info/ Eido INOUE

        If the best example that you could find was one 2-year old article from a B-lister rag, then sorry, I don’t think you backed up your claim of “constant drumbeat” nor “popular discourse” (one article distributed to 150K in a country of 126M years ago is neither “popular” nor “constant”). Thanks for digging deep, though!

      • Steve Jackman

        Keep wiggling, since you can’t seem to get out of this one so easily. You expect me to write you a whole thesis, everytime we have one of these discussions? Go do your own digging, I have better things to do,

      • http://www.turning-japanese.info/ Eido INOUE

        I think I made my point: a few people here are a little prone to exaggeration now and then. ;)

      • OsFish

        Thank you for finding this article. I’m interested to know what language and phrases are used to see if it parallels the debate in the UK. (Incidentally, the JapanToday sumary article you are relying on has a somewhat idiosyncratic translation: it blends the headline and the sub-heading into one sentence.)

        Your suggestion that the article is about foreigners living off welfare without paying taxes is a little bit off the mark. It is about how some foreigners are *fraudulently* extracting extraordinary sums of money from the livelihood protection scheme through sham divorces. The article stresses at the end that tax payers’ money should not be *fraudulently* taken, not that foreigners should not receive these payments regardless of need. The article actually says “there are of course foreigners who are in need of help from this system” (seikatsu ga konkyuu shi yamunaku juukyuu suru gaikokujin mo iru darou).

        I find this interesting, because if this is the strongest example you have of a right-wing tabloid railing against foreign recipients, it’s remarkably tame by British standards (Have you ever heard of the Daily Express?). In my own searches, I have found a few individual news stories of very large scale seikatsu hogo fraud by individual non-Japanese over the past few years, although it seems to be the same few stories recycled, particularly a Korean club owner in kabuki-cho. But I can also find news stories aout fraud where the foreign aspect is explicitly downplayed. And I can’t find any “don’t give foreigners seikatsu hogo” material, although I’m sure it must be out there somewhere. Japan is a diverse society, and it would be quite weird if there weren’t some people in some unpleasant publications saying unpleasant things.

        Interestingly, an article in the right-wing Sankei last year talks about why there has been a large rise in the number of non-Japanese receiving seikatsuhogo. (The number of recipients has doubled in ten years: in 2013 it was 43,000 households, making up 73,000 recipients. This made news, as is to be expected) It turns out it’s not foreigners coming here to get welfare. It’s largely explained by zainichi Koreans and Chinese who have been here their whole lives now reached retirement age who have not qualified for pensions. (There may be a similar effect soon to come with the ageing Brazilian-Japanese population).

        Of course, this does provide fodder for certain sections of the press to focus on fraud committed by zainichi Koreans. That’s not good. However, I cannot find anything that makes a blanket statement about zainichi Koreans as a problem group of recipients in anything that could be described as mainstream. What I can’t find is a “constant drumbeat” of discussion in mainstream media that foreigners in need should NOT getting seikatsuhogo because they’re living off Japanese taxes. I could be missing some key words here that will unlock the treasure trove of material you say is out there.

        As I say, I’m interested because such an idea certainly is a dominant theme in British and European politics and media, and it is not unreasonable to ask if debates are replicated here.

      • ishiibrad

        You are either joking or dumbass stupid ? You don’t want to know my thoughts on you

  • Greg Estelcherry

    I welcome correction, but misunderstandings regarding this ruling have been blown out of proportion, and editorials such as this – if they become part of the public narrative – might actually contribute to denial of foreign residents receiving social welfare payments.
    My understanding of the ruling is that non-Japanese citizens do not have the legal grounds for *appealing the denial* of these benefits. This is very far from stating that non-Japanese residents are ineligible to receive these payments, but merely states that if their seikatsu-hogo application is denied by the local office, they do not have legal recourse to appeal.
    This is because the payments made to non-Japanese so far, which are still eligible to be received, were based not on a legal ground rooted in the law itself, but upon a addendum notification from the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
    I hope that this legal status is changed. Unfortunately though, some local officials might, like the editorial writer above, assume wrongly that such benefits should not be paid to foreign residents. This is why misunderstanding the ruling or misleading readers might actually bring about a more adverse effect.
    It should also be pointed out that:
    1) Japanese applicants do not automatically qualify for this type of welfare. In fact, the original denial of the claimant’s request was made precisely on this basis. All applicants, including Japanese, must show sufficient grounds that they qualify for it. So yes, even Japanese run the risk of not “getting the benefits their taxes paid for.”
    2) It is quite normal for taxpayers not to have direct access to benefits that their taxes fund. If you don’t have children, you will be ineligible for certain benefits that childless people too pay into. If you are not of a certain age you cannot receive certain age-related benefits. This list of ‘discriminatory’ qualifications for the benefits of our taxes is nearly endless. In short, the “If I pay into it, I should get some of it back” argument, as a principle, doesn’t really work.

  • OsFish

    Sad to say for an article that wants to see social rights extended, but it is wrong on a number of counts.

    First, as another commenter has already pointed out, a safety net is not for “all taxpayers”. It should be for all members of society. “Little or no-taxpayers” (if we exclude the consumption tax that a 3-hour visitor pays) can include abandoned mothers, the long-term disabled, and the destitute elderly. These are the sorts of people who receive seikatsuhogo – not people who have been working full time. To focus on “taxpayers” is to rely on the kind of populist tea party-style rhetoric that demonises the most vulnerable and delegitimises their claim to the same benefit you want guaranteed for foreigners. It may make an eye-catching headline for the angry, but it’s a dangerous path to go down. Please take time to consider the words you use in future.

    Secondly, the article claims that social insurance benefits, such as pensions, unemployment benefit, may be affected by this ruling. This is a fantasy. It’s just not true. Those are contributory benefits, whereas seikatsu hogo is non-contributory, and means-tested. Shakai hoken (social insurance) is a completely different set of laws, that operate on an entirely different set of principles. The lawyer in the case made this broad claim, but he’s wrong. He’s just trying to get support for his case. Many of the Japan Times’ readers are foreign residents paying into the social insurance system, and this kind of myth is scaring them. To repeat it is mischief-making.

    Thirdly the article fails to mention that qualifying foreigners DO and WILL get seikatsuhogo, even after this ruling. Way back in 1954, the Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare instructed municipalities clearly and directly to treat foreign residents as if they were Japanese citizens when it came to offering seikatsuhogo. This was clarified in an oral answer in 1990 to mean to treat “long-term” non-Japanese residents (including, but not only, special permanent residents, permanent residents and refugees) as if they were Japanese citizens for the purposes of this benefit.

    That’s what this ruling means: that it is this notice, not the law, that enables foreigners to get seikatsuhogo. As the Japan Times’ own writer Tomohiro Osaki reported in another article a few days ago, none of the municipalities he spoke to (and he chose those with large non-Japanese populations) has any plans to change their policy: they will continue to make no distinction between Japanese and non-Japanese when assessing for this benefit. My own contacts in municipal government report the same thing: nothing will change.

    To neglect to mention this hugely important point that foreigners will still get seikatsuhogo, when the paper already knows about it looks again like mischief-making. If people don’t think they can get a benefit, they will not try to claim it. To repeat from the first point: this is a benefit not for able-bodied hard-earning taxpayers who’ve paid their dues: it’s for the most vulnerable and economically disenfranchised. They are empowered by information, not misinformation or lack of information.

    We certainly have to be concerned that access to this benefit is not on a secure enough footing, and the law needs to be changed. However, I know a lot of foreigners who are angry and panicked not because they understand what has happened, but because they don’t understand what has happened and they have been misled into thinking that they’re having all the social protections that they’ve paid for stolen from them. These protections are safe, and they are not going away.

    • http://www.turning-japanese.info/ Eido INOUE

      Excellent second paragraph. In addition to the examples you mentioned being eligible candidates, there are also the Japanese who lived their whole lives overseas who repatriate* as an adult and take a stumble or two as they learn to adapt to a new life. These people are make a good textbook case example of people who never had to pay Japanese taxes (consumption or anything else) yet are entitled to welfare.

      * perhaps because the welfare benefits where they used to live were nonexistent?

    • warota

      > These protections are safe, and they are not going away.

      For now.

      The whole point of this ruling is that the SCOJ acknowledges a definite legal possibility to deny benefits by nationality. This doesn’t change even if local governments are issuing benefits under directives that run counter to this even as directed by the federal government. Who’s to say that directives to evaluate non-citizens in the same way as citizens for welfare won’t change? Given Japan’s prospects and financial state, not even benefits for citizens are safe in the future. Should it even be a surprise that citizens may be prioritized over non-citizens if push comes to shove? Ultimately, the government has left this option open for themselves should they want to save on payments in the future in a perfectly legal way.

      The tone of your comment suggests that non-citizens have nothing to worry about which is false. While there is no need for panic now, we should be keeping watch over this.

      • OsFish

        I think you’ve misread what I wrote. When I wrote that people “have been misled into thinking that they’re having all the social
        protections that they’ve paid for stolen from them. These protections are safe, and they are not going away.” I’m clearly referring to contributory social insurance (pensions, unemployment benefit, workplace accident insurance etc.), not social assistance.

        It’s really important that people understand the difference between the two. There is no more logic in saying that the ruling might mean that social insurance payments to foreign residents may be curtailed, than there is in saying that foreign residents will now not be allowed to drive, or send their children to schools, or use public toilets, or get police protection, or make use of any other service that receives support through taxation, because of this ruling. People are getting confused by the word “welfare”.

        In addition, this ruling is about the meaning of the text of one specific law (which does only mention Japanese citizens). It is not a ruling about any general principle in law at all about what foreigners may receive. It is regrettable that several news articles and social media users have been presenting it as some such deeper judgement. Some people also seem to be presenting it as a statement of government policy or intent. It simply isn’t.

        It’s also incorrect to describe the directive that extends access to social assistance to foreigners as “running counter” to the law. It doesn’t. It is additional to the law. This is how Japan met its commitments to the convention on the status of refugees: the directive was the government’s way of extending support to refugees. The ruling does not mean, and several municipalities when contacted have confirmed it as not meaning, that the directive should no longer apply. The Ministry that issued the directive has stated clearly that this ruling accords with how they have always viewed the meaning of the law itself.

        I share your concern that this ruling puts foreign access to social assistance benefits on a weaker footing than we had thought in recent years. I’ve been very clear that’s a concern, and I would like to see the Ministry notice incorporated into law. It’s not so much the general state of Japan’s finances that is the problem, it is the growth of social assistance recipients in general in the past fifteen years that makes it vulnerable for reassessment and cutting. This is why I have been asking people making claims about anti-foreigner rhetoric in the media to provide sources. It’s something that might happen, even though foreigners make up a tiny proportion of recipients.

        However, claiming that the ruling means that foreigners should not be allowed to access social assistance, or extending a concern about foreigners to areas beyond social assistance, as many in the media and many social media users are doing, is highly misleading if not simply factually in error. I do not see the value of having people in need of social support being told they can’t get something that they can.

      • warota

        No, you’ve misread me. I’m referring only to welfare as I have in all my posts. You can add all the strawman fluff in your posts to make it seem like I’m not but you’re just wasting everyone’s time having to sift through all of your repetition.

        > It’s not so much the general state of Japan’s finances that is the problem, it is the growth of social assistance recipients in general in the past fifteen years that makes it vulnerable for reassessment and
        cutting.

        Exactly my point? The major growth of recipients is exactly why it’s becoming vulnerable regardless if you think this is a problem with Japan’s finances or not.

        > I share your concern that this ruling puts foreign access to social assistance benefits on a weaker footing than we had thought in recent years. I’ve been very clear that’s a concern, and I would like to see the Ministry notice incorporated into law.

        They could have but they didn’t. So this is why there is still valid concern over this and requires monitoring to see if anything fishy may happen in the future especially due to the growing load on the system just as I said in my previous post.

  • OsFish

    Good comment about the proportion of people receiving this benefit. Could you provide a source for that 45,000 number? It would be very helpful to me.

    (Do you have examples of the comments people are making? I’ve not been aware of it, but I could easily have missed it.)

  • http://www.turning-japanese.info/ Eido INOUE

    those who are eligible for applying for pensions and other benefits are usually limited to those who live in Japan for a long-term– i.e., those under permanent resident card and/or special permanent resident card. Those who are under non-work visa (e.g., a tourist or student) and short-term work visa cannot be qualified for applying for pensions and other welfare benefits.

    False. The type of resident visa (short or long term, work or no work) makes no difference with respect to eligibility for contributing to and receiving nenkin (pension).

  • http://www.turning-japanese.info/ Eido INOUE

    I recommend you re-read not only my comment, but your own comment as well. You were talking about pensions. It was a ruling on a very specific benefit: seikatsu hogo (livelihood protection). The supreme court is not talking about pensions (kōsei nenkin) or employment insurance (koyō hoken), or other types of “welfare”.

    The ruling has absolutely nothing to do with pensions (which I repeat, any SoR is eligible for).

    Please don’t spread misinformation.

  • OsFish

    Toolonggone, unfortunately, I think that poor reporting on this issue has led to you getting confused between social assistance and social insurance. These are two *separate* parts of the Japanese “welfare system”. Unfortunately, the word “welfare” has been used in a horribly ambiguous way to mean either both social insurance *and* social assistance, or *just* social assistance. You seem to think this ruling affects pensions, but I can say unequivocally that it does not. Pensions are not assistance benefits, and this ruling only affects assistance benefits.

    Social insurance is shakai hoken. This is something that *working people* pay so that they and their families (spouses in particular) are protected in case they lose their ability to work, through unemployment, sickness, workplace injury, or, and this is crucial, old age. A similar principle operates for health insurance. It is a European “welfare state” model that Japan essentially copied. English speakers are less familiar with this system, given that welfare state models are less clearly insurance based in the major English speaking countries, which is why I think people are getting confused with the word “welfare”.

    Anyway, this insurance principle means that to gain full access to insurance benefits, you need to be part of a household attached to a worker working full time and paying their obligatory social insurance contributions for long enough. If you pay in, you can take out. It’s as simple as that, and has a sense of justice about it. Nationality is not an issue, and, as Eido Inoue has pointed out, neither is residency status. (of course, if you’re here for a short time, you may not qualify for all possible benefits, but that’s a separate issue affecting things like pensions)

    Social assistance – in this case seikatsuhogo (livelihood protection) – is for people who do not get these benefits, or not enough of them, and also don’t have an income. These are people who, for whatever reason, did not keep up their social insurance payments. Major recipients include the long-term disabled, and families where the main earner has abandoned them (typically, the husband walked out). These people have to prove to the local office that they do not have enough income to survive, which *may* also include an assessment of savings and wealth.

    This ruling is about social assistance and who gets it by law. Pensions are not, I hope you can see now, social assistance. In the words of one ward office official contacted by a concerned foreigner, “the pension and livelihood protection systems are different, therefore this ruling will have no affect on the ability to receive payments.” It’s very clear.

    What this article, and many (but not all) English language articles miss, is that the ruling does not mean that foreigners *cannot* claim social assistance. Such a conclusion would be absolutely wrong. Foreigners can and do claim seikatsu hogo. Over 73,000 claimed it last year. They can do this because the municipal governments have been under instruction since 1954 from what is now the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare to treat foreign residents the same as Japanese citizens when considering seikatsu hogo applications.

    The ruling simply means that the text of the law itself does not make non-citizens eligible. This is a problem, because in principle it makes access to social assistance for non-citizens less secure. However, several municipalities with large foreign populations have been clear that they do not intend to change policy based on this ruling, and I have been told myself by contacts in municipal departments that nothing will change.

    So, there is a problem, but it is NOT the huge problem for all foreign workers that some people, including some newspaper journalists, have been making out.