Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to dole out ¥100,000 per person from state coffers to offset the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has given rise to a number of questions. The most pressing: Who is eligible for the cash?
As no income limit limit will be set for the cash handout program, every citizen and foreign resident is expected to be entitled. But what about newborn babies, Japanese living abroad and prison inmates, among others?
According to an estimate by the internal affairs ministry’s Statistics Bureau, Japan’s population stood at about 125,950,000 as of March 1. Based on the data, the program will cost over ¥12 trillion.
The population figure, however, excluded Japanese expats, who were forecast to have reached about 1.4 million as of Oct. 1, 2018, while foreign nationals staying in Japan for more than three months were counted as residents.
Finance Minister Taro Aso said Friday the handout should be ready by next month, stressing that a quick response is crucial in softening the economic blow from the pandemic. At a regular news conference, Aso said those eligible to receive the ¥100,000 will still need to apply, unlike a similar plan in 2009.
Indeed, a clue to the scope of eligibility may be found in a cash handout program the government executed in 2009 during the global financial crisis accelerated by the September 2008 collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers.
That program paid out ¥20,000 per person to young and elderly people, and ¥12,000 to others.
The recipients were those who were listed in the basic resident registry or alien registration records as of Feb. 1, 2009. Babies born on that day and people who died on or after it were eligible for the program.
The money was not distributed to Japanese expatriates, many of whom weren’t listed as basic residents anymore, or foreign people who were on short-term stays or residing here illegally.
Prison inmates were eligible as well, with opposition to giving the cash handouts to those on death row or serving indefinite prison terms.
A similar debate over eligibility could emerge this time as well.
The method for distributing the cash is another issue to be watched closely.
In the 2009 program, the heads of households received the money by representing the family members. This approach, however, made it difficult for homeless people, long-term clients of internet cafes, domestic violence victims living apart from their spouses and people with other problems to receive the cash benefits.
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