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An investigative committee on Nov. 28 handed welfare minister Yoichi Masuzoe a report stating that workers at local offices of the Social Insurance Agency systematically falsified pension records of company employees. Falsification consisted of (1) recording employee salaries as lower than their actual amount and (2) shortening the period during which pension premiums were paid. Some 69,000 records are suspected to have been falsified.

The falsification benefited companies that had financial difficulties in the 1990s after the economic bubble burst. The monthly premium is equivalent to 15.35 percent of a worker’s standard monthly salary. Employers pay half the amount. Data falsification can pre-empt defaults on premium payments and enable SIA offices to show a high collection rate for premiums. However, some employees could end up receiving a lower pension payout than they would have if their records had been correct.

The committee sent inquiries to 15,000 SIA workers. Of these, 153 admitted their involvement in record falsification and 190 others said they were aware that other workers falsified records. This is appalling. The methods of falsification included having employers submit blank forms to be filled out later by SIA workers and creating false documents by using ready-made seals for employers whose whereabouts were not known.

The burst of the economic bubble caused a large number of bankruptcies and defaults on premium payments, putting enormous pressure on SIA offices. The report criticized the SIA for doing nothing other than pressuring local offices to maintain the appearance of a high collection rate.

Data falsification by SIA workers cannot be condoned. The report said the irresponsible attitude of the SIA and the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, which oversees the SIA, coupled with the uncontrolled behavior of SIA workers at local offices amounted to a grave betrayal of the public.

Both the SIA and the ministry should examine their operating procedures, thoroughly investigate pension records and take whatever rectification measures are necessary.

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