"One Step toward Reality Check of Poverty Rate and Analysis of its Details: Causative Factors and Processes"
The Kyoto Shimbun
October 19, 2009 Morning Edition:3
The government calculates the poverty rate for the first time.
The calculation of the "poverty rate" in Japan is to be realized due to the recent political power shift. Faced with widening inequality and prolonged recession, the poverty rate is expected to provide important indicators for the purpose of reviewing social security policies. In order to realize enhancement of assistance aiming to break free of the poverty trap, however, further financial burden is indispensable. Moreover, the ministerial "vertical administrative structure" becomes a bottleneck. It is questioned how the political decisions will rectify the nationüfs safety nets in accordance with the reality.
YOSHINAGA Atsushi, a professor on public assistance at Hanazono University, evaluates the poverty rate calculation as a "major turning point of social security policies."
Until now the government has continued to withhold the number of people who are eligible to receive public assistance
. According to the researchers' estimate, the "public assistance rate", which represents the percentage of actual recipients of public assistance, is estimated to remain at some 20%, while that of many European countries, where policies aiming to increase the rate have been undertaken, exceeds 50%. "In Japan, the effects of policies have never been visible to us because of the lack of official figures," says Prof. YOSHINAGA.
Although the government had revealed the number of households with less consumption expenses based on the "Report on Basic Survey of Health and Welfare Administration," which is the former "Comprehensive Survey of Living Conditions of the People on Health and Welfare" since 1953, they terminated the announcement in 1965, when it was amid the high economic growth period. Prof. YOSHINAGA says, "After the war, Japan has developed into an economic superpower. And it had not faced the fact that poverty has recently been progressing."
Realization of detailed reality check of poverty, therefore, is the key issue for the future.
, who is 31 years old and a chairperson of "Union Bochi-Bochi" (Minami ward, Kyoto)--a labor union for non-regular workers-- says, "There are diverse routes towards poverty. Regional fact-finding surveys on dispatched workers who do not have regular settlements and "Net Cafe Refugees" should be conducted. We expect that the government makes a detailed analysis on causative factors and takes effective policies."
Some people failed to receive public assistance: A heavy burden on educational expenses causes "reproduction of inequality"
In Japan, public assistance has been placed as the "ultimate safety net." The take-up ratio has been increasing since the fall 2008, and reached 1.72 million in July 2009, which is the same level as in fiscal 1963. On the other hand, problems have been pointed out--such as the municipality's "water front strategy" in which the local governments have rejected applications of public assistance at windows because applicants are of workable age. There have also been strong criticisms that the increased number of non-regular workers and the prolonged economic recession have led to problems of the "working poor (individuals who work but remain in poverty)" or "layoff of temporary workers." They eventually caused an increased number of people who failed to have the nation's protection nets.
In addition, the "reproduction of inequality" in which parents' poverty has been inherited by their children has been pointed out. Prof. YUZAWA Naomi of Rikkyo University says, "Japan has poor assistance measures for low income households and single parent families. Moreover, higher educational expenses, compared to other advanced countries, place heavy burdens on their livelihood."
It is highly likely that once the reality check of poverty is revealed, additional financial resources will be necessary. However, the cost of public assistance of the public treasury in fiscal 2009 already reaches a record high level of 2.1239 trillion yen. The local governments that bear 25% of the cost shout "All costs should be incurred by the nation" (Osaka City), as municipalities have also suffered from severe financial difficulties.
YUASA Makoto, a director of the "Anti-Poverty Network," said to reporters after a forum held in Tokyo on 17 October, "Hatoyama administration should achieve poverty reduction by combining various policies rather than by proposing individual measures such as child allowance provision."
Under the current government structures, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is responsible for housing policies for the unemployed, while the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology provides learning assistance to children in low income households. Therefore, measures against poverty have been implemented by each ministry separately. YUASA, who also serves as a member of the National Strategy Bureau, plans to emphasize his idea in the discussions that "Cross-sectional efforts against poverty are definitely required."