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A subcommittee of an advisory council to the labor minister urged Thursday that the monthly sum of unemployment insurance premiums be raised to an amount equal to 1.6 percent of an employee’s wages beginning April 1, 2005.

The Labor Policy Council’s job-stabilization subcommittee put forward the recommendation in a report on how Japan’s employment insurance regime should be improved, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said.

The ministry plans to submit bills to the Diet during the current session to revise relevant laws, with the aim of having them go into effect May 1, 2003, though the planned premium rate hike would be implemented two years later.

At present, employees pay 0.7 percent of monthly wages as premiums, with their employers putting up the same sum into the insurance regime to enable the government to maintain the pool of premiums to tap for benefit payments.

The ministry initially planned to hike the premium rate as soon as possible for fear that the pool of premiums might otherwise dry up.

If the ministry’s initial plan were to have been implemented, it would be the third straight hike in three years.

But the ministry gave up the speedy hike plan, because the governing coalition balked at such quick action on grounds that the hike would push up the amount of combined premiums from employees and employers to a level double the original amount in just two years.

The bills to amend the relevant laws call for recipients of jobless-insurance benefits to search seriously for new jobs and to work to improve their professional capabilities and skills while job-hunting.

The bills carry a clause designed to prevent unscrupulous people from receiving jobless benefits even after they have found jobs on the strength of introductions from manpower agencies whose help they sought.

The bills would hold the manpower agencies involved, as well as the people in question, responsible for returning already-paid benefits to the national coffers, to fend off people who would otherwise make undue claims.

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