Japan puts off using My Number system to scrutinize financial assets of elderly people

JIJI

The government is set to push back the deadline — scheduled for late March — for working out the specifics of a plan to obtain information on elderly people’s financial assets, such as savings and securities, through the My Number identification system due to lack of public support for the idea, it was learned Monday.

The government believes the plan will play an important role in curbing ballooning social security costs by asking wealthy elderly people to shoulder greater expense. But it now thinks the idea has yet to be accepted by the general public and that preparations to obtain such data from financial institutions have not made progress, sources said.

Elderly people would certainly oppose facing higher social security burdens and having their financial assets monitored by the government.

In addition, the coalition government of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito apparently wants to avoid upsetting public sentiment ahead of an Upper House election next summer.

The government is expected to set a new deadline during its work later this year compiling a draft budget for fiscal 2019, which starts next April, the sources said.

With Japan’s population graying and social security costs growing, the finance ministry and others insist that elderly people with large savings should accept making higher contributions to social security services even if their incomes are low.

A ministry estimate shows that the proportion of married couples aged 65 or over who have at least ¥20 million in financial assets stands at nearly 40 percent, compared with less than 5 percent among couples aged under 40.

If elderly people are to get financial support for meals and living at nursing care homes, they must not exceed income limits and must prove their individual financial assets total ¥10 million or less.

Elderly people can obtain preferential treatment in principle, such as reduced out-of-pocket expenses for hospital visits, no matter how much they have in financial assets if their income is below certain levels.

If the My Number system, which is used for social security and taxation purposes, is upgraded, it would become easier for authorities to get information from deposit and securities accounts and figure out how much elderly people have in financial assets.

A deadline of the end of fiscal 2018 had originally been set by a reform road map as part of the government’s economic and fiscal revitalization program. A welfare ministry official said, “It will be difficult to put together concrete measures by the end of fiscal 2018.”

Little discussion has been made within the government, and coordination with the financial industry has also made little progress.