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Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Thursday reiterated his determination to have government-sponsored pension reform legislation enacted during the ongoing Diet session.

He made the pledge before a plenary session of the House of Representatives, which began deliberations on the contentious bills amid opposition demands for more comprehensive pension reforms than those the government has put forward.

Koizumi said the bills constitute “drastic reforms” to keep the battered pension system afloat by setting the lower limit for benefits and the upper limit for premiums and increasing the government’s contributions to the state pension scheme.

Under the government’s proposal, premiums for the corporate employee pension program will be raised to 18.3 percent by fiscal 2017 from the current 13.58 percent, while pension benefits will not fall below 50 percent of the active generation’s annual take-home pay.

But Koizumi also reiterated his support for the future integration of the existing pension programs for the self-employed and unemployed, salaried workers, and the mutual-aid pension covering public servants. This measure was advocated by the Democratic Party of Japan, the main opposition force.

“It’s worthwhile to hold consultations on such a fundamental issue” as pension integration, Koizumi said in response to a question from DPJ policy affairs chief Yukio Edano. “But it must be discussed separately from this pension reform legislation.”

Edano said the government-sponsored bills are “undesirable and deceptive” because they delay correction of the fundamental problems of the current pay-as-you-go pension system, which is on the verge of collapse amid the rapid graying of Japanese society.

Koizumi said, “These bills serve the purpose of drastic reform and realize the ruling coalition’s pledge (in the November general election to carry out comprehensive pension reforms), so I’d like the Diet to approve it without delay.”

He said that integration of the three pension schemes would require between one and two years of consideration and even longer for implementation.

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