National / Politics

Cabinet support rate falls to 47.6% amid controversy over pension provision, telephone poll shows

Kyodo

The approval rate for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet has dipped to 47.6 percent, a Kyodo News survey showed Sunday, down from 50.5 percent in the previous poll in mid-May, amid criticism over handling of a financial report that indicated flaws in Japan’s pension system.

In the nationwide telephone poll conducted Saturday and Sunday, 53.2 percent approved of Abe’s recent visit to Iran, amid the country’s standoff with Washington over a 2015 deal that curtailed Tehran’s nuclear program, while 33.5 percent did not approve.

Respondents in the weekend survey were reached via phone numbers randomly generated by computers.

The survey contacted 741 voters on fixed phone lines, and 513 of them gave valid responses. Another 1,256 voters were reached by cellphone. Of these, 517 gave valid answers.

The disapproval rating for the Cabinet stood at 38.1 percent, up from 36.2 percent in the May 18-19 survey.

Abe is the first Japanese leader to visit Iran in 41 years. He held talks with President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday, hoping to broker dialogue between Tehran and Washington amid growing concern about possible inadvertent military clashes in the region.

But Iran said Thursday it would not negotiate with the United States, rejecting Abe’s attempt to serve as a mediator.

The survey also showed that 63.8 percent believe they cannot rely on Japan’s public pension system, following the government’s recent backpedaling over an estimate that stated a retired couple would find themselves with a shortfall of ¥20 million under the system if they live to be 95 years old.

Only 28.2 percent viewed the pension system as reliable.

The estimate was released this month by a panel under the Financial Services Agency and was supposed to be submitted to Finance Minister Taro Aso.

But the government Tuesday decided not to endorse the report, with Aso saying it had caused “misunderstanding.”

In the survey, 71.3 percent saw Aso’s refusal to accept the report as problematic, against 19.1 percent who did not.

The report sparked criticism not only from opposition parties but also within Abe’s ruling coalition, amid concern the issue could affect the House of Councilors’ election, likely next month.

The report had been compiled with the aim of encouraging the public to be more proactive in managing and investing their assets, as the country grapples with a graying society and declining workforce that have made it increasingly difficult to secure funds for the pension program, according to government officials.

The government is scheduled to raise the consumption tax rate to 10 percent in October from the current 8 percent to cover swelling welfare costs.

In the survey, 55.6 percent opposed the planned tax hike, while 39.5 percent approved.

Asked about life after retirement, 74.3 percent said they felt anxious about finances, while 22.7 percent did not.

Regarding the current state of the economy, 33.2 percent viewed it as deteriorating, 8.1 percent felt it was improving and 56.6 percent said it was unchanged.

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