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  • Kyodo: NJ on welfare (unlike Japanese on welfare) now need to pay pension premiums, says Japan Pension Service

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on October 19th, 2012

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    Hi Blog. I know so little about this issue that I post this with hopes that others will do some investigation for us (thanks, research on other things in process). Comment follows too-short article.

    /////////////////////////////////////////

    Foreigners on welfare need to pay pension premiums: agency
    TOKYO, Oct. 16, 2012, Kyodo News, courtesy of JK
    http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2012/10/188282.html

    Japan Pension Service has drawn up a guideline that renders foreign residents on welfare no longer eligible for a uniform waiver from premium payments for the public pension, effectively a turnaround from a long-held practice of treating them equally with Japanese, sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday.

    Human rights activists said it is tantamount to discrimination based on nationality. In fiscal 2010, roughly 1.41 million households were on public assistance. Around 42,000 were households led by foreign residents.

    In a reply dated Aug. 10 to a query from a local pension service office, JPS, a government affiliate commissioned to undertake pension services, said, “Public assistance benefits are provided to foreigners living in poverty as done so for Japanese nationals, but foreigners are not subject to the law on public assistance.”

    ENDS

    //////////////////////////////////////

    COMMENT:  It sounds like the same sort of thing that happened when Oita Prefectural bureaucrats unilaterally decided in 2008 that elderly NJ didn’t deserve welfare benefits, despite it being legal by Diet decree since 1981 (see here also item six). It took a very brave and long-lived Zainichi to get that straightened out.

    Only this time, it’s not just some local bureaucrats and asinine local courtroom judges. It’s the governing agency on the whole pension scheme, publishing a “guideline” on this. Even though, as the Yomiuri noted in 2011, “The [2011 Fukuoka] high court ruling noted Diet deliberations in 1981 on ratifying the U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which stipulates that countries ‘shall accord to refugees within their territories treatment at least as favorable as that accorded to their nationals’.”  One would think that this would apply in this case too.  Thoughts?  Arudou Debito

    15 Responses to “Kyodo: NJ on welfare (unlike Japanese on welfare) now need to pay pension premiums, says Japan Pension Service”

    1. Kirk Masden Says:

      I think that KATAYAMA Satsuki may have gotten this ball rolling. Check out her questioning of the Noda administration on this issue earlier this year (the relevant section begins at 7:40):

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lB94UOBdsSw

      It’s short be she seems to have gotten a lot of “bang for her buck” on this issue.

      Since I became aware of Ms. Katayama earlier this year, I’ve been following her blog. She herself is clearly anti-Korean, anti-foreign, and she has many reactionary, bigoted followers (as evidenced by the messages they type in reaction to her blog posts).

    2. AM Says:

      Interesting.

      So today they aren’t taking away a foreigner’s right to receive the benefits they pay for in taxes…

      …today is just a pension demand, today is just “show proof you are paying the health tax, to receive free tax money”

      This is the opposite of equal rights, unless this same pension demand were applied to EVERYBODY, even Japanese.

      But tomorrow, they will take away a foreigner’s right to receive the benefits they pay for in taxes. The JPS quote above shows their philosophy is the same as the Japanese police training insists, “Foreigners have no rights.”

      Some people would say, “Well, what if we check it out, and we find that “one group” (which happens to be a group I don’t like, i.e. “the Foreigner group”) is grabbing tax money more than average? Wouldn’t it be right to simply deny that group benefits, even though they pay taxes, because hey, the numbers shows that group is statistically the biggest parasite!”

      To which I can reply,
      “No, because it would be illegal to deny ANY group benefits according to the Japanese constitution in its original form of English (it states basically “all people have equal rights” not “just ‘Japanese’ have rights”) and according to the 2011 Fukuoka high court ruling which upheld the U.N. Treaty (it too basically states “all people have equal rights” not “just Japanese have rights”) and read the relevant law about welfare written and voted on and enacted by Japanese Legislators (it basically states “all people have equal rights to equal benefits since they all have equal responsibility to pay taxes.” )

      Now, as it happens, thanks to this article, I know now that the number-per-capita of Non-Japanese-Citizens receiving tax money (about 2%) is the same as the the number-per-capita of Non-Japanese-Citizens receiving tax money (about 2%).

      But it’s a little embarrassing to admit that actually, statistically, most Non-Japanese-Citizens don’t on average pay into the system as long as most Japanese-Citizens do on average pay, in terms of numbers of years. But on the third hand Japan does profit from the pension money which the government steals from people who stay here for over 3 years but less than 25 years. So whether foreigners in Japan are a drain on tax money or a boon to tax money, we’ll need Level3 to whip out his calculator. There was a well publicized report in England about a study done by a reputable university which showed that Non-U.K.-Citizens living in the U.K. as a whole actually paid more-per-capita to the government net [taxes paid minus benefits received] while U.K.-Citizens as a whole actually paid less-per-capita to the government net [taxes paid minus benefits received] when those 2 groups of tax payers are compared. So in the U.K., it has been scientifically proven that the U.K. Citizens are the parasites leaching off the Non-U.K.-Citizens living in the U.K. It’s so ironic. I’ll bet you’ll find this in all countries at all times. The rich folks on top leach off the energy produced by the poor manual laborers at the bottom, and all the while these rich parasites on top incorrectly complain about “The poor class being the lazy parasites!”

      Which group is supporting which group in Japan?

      I think that a rational calculation will show that in Japan, just like in the U.K. (proven), just like around the world, the foreigners produce more-per-capita of net profits to the governments, compared to non-foreigners.

      It’s the majority sticking it to the minority, plain and simple.

      Has there ever been a time in history anywhere where the majority treats the minority fairly? I doubt it, but would love to hear of such a case.

    3. jim Says:

      this is just another example why japan needs a anti-discrimination law. and this is also another example of the bias double standards that NJ and there families have to deal with on a daily basis over here.

    4. Welp Says:

      I’m fairly sure that the constitution’s Japanese version is the one that is actually applicable in Japan, and the “rights” to which you refer (第14条すべて国民は、法の下に平等であつて、人種、信条、性別、社会的身分又は門地により、政治的、経済的又は社会的関係において、差別されない。, I presume) are more like “things which you cannot not do to citizens”; as these protection is specifically conferred only to 国民, which foreigners, pretty much by definition, are not included. Even the title (第3章 国民の権利及び義務) spells it out pretty plainly. Sections which use different wording (ie 何人も, etc) may or may not apply to foreigners depending on their specific wording. The same argument basically applies to the articles on human rights (11 & 12、and notably, 97), as these are also conferred only to 国民.

      Of course this is all based upon my interpretation of 国民, but I’m confident enough in the basis of my argument that I’m not about to go grab a J-J dictionary and dissect the meaning of the word 国民 any more than I have already.

      – As I am uncovering in my current research, the widespread contextual current of “kokumin” within Japan’s laws enables administrative enforcement of those laws with exclusionary “Nationality Clauses” ad hoc, as is happening I believe in this case.

    5. Loverilakkuma Says:

      @Welp, #3

      The issue is about the establishment clause on public assistance. So it’s on National Pension Law–instead of Japanese Constitution. GOJ dropped the national clause from National Pension Law in 1982, so that means foreigners (long-term resident aliens under permanent residents or work visa, etc.) should be able to receive the benefits just like Japanese citizens. Yup, Oita district court case proves that the local legislature was wrong in refusing to review NJ plaintiff’s application without verifying her eligibility regardless of nationality.

      It’s pretty obvious to me that local/central government bureaucrats always want to make politics of equality and place arguments by taking advantage of ‘symbolic ambiguity’ condensed in national language. Wonder if we’ll see NJ de-segregation debate ever in the future, should it happen, how J national diet in the 21st century could compare US Congress on the controversy over 1875 Civil Rights Acts. Since they already meet the requirement as tax-residents, granting eligible NJ public assistance on one hand and imposing 31.5 % tax credit on pension funds for being non-citizen don’t make sense. It just sounds like administration’s lame excuse for not wanting to raise taxes on Japanese people because that will upset them and infuse more hostility toward NJ.

      Full Kyodo article:
      http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20121017a1.html

      Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012
      Foreigners on welfare face pension burden
      Planned end to premium waiver sparks cries of discrimination
      Kyodo

      The Japan Pension Service wants to drop the pension premium waiver for foreigners who are on welfare, effectively ending a long-held practice of treating them the same as Japanese, sources said Tuesday.

      The government-linked body that runs the public pension systems has drawn up a guideline to end the uniform premium waiver for foreigners on welfare, drawing immediate fire from human rights activists who liken the end of the exemption to discrimination based on nationality.

      In fiscal 2010, roughly 1.41 million households were on public assistance, including around 42,000 headed by foreign residents.

      In a reply dated Aug. 10 to an inquiry from a local-level pension service office, the Japan Pension Service said that “public assistance benefits are provided to foreigners living in poverty just like those provided to Japanese nationals, but foreigners are not actually covered by the law on public assistance.

      “Under the national pension law, the (premium) waiver is accorded only to those subject to the law on public assistance,” the service said. “It is thus not applicable to foreigners.”

      The Kokumin Nenkin basic pension system is designed mainly for people not employed by corporations, including self-employed workers, students and part-time workers.

      The national pension law stipulates that the premium waiver applies to people who are on welfare benefits paid under the public assistance law or via a welfare ministry ordinance.

      Presumably because the public assistance law stipulates that only Japanese nationals are eligible for welfare, the Japan Pension Service drew up the new guideline that drops the foreigner exemption.

      But in practice, certain qualified foreign residents, including those with permanent residency and with Japanese spouses, are receiving public assistance benefits thanks to a humanitarian decision by the welfare ministry in 1954 that municipal governments must accept applications from foreign nationals in dire need of support.

      In 1982, when the nationality clause in the national pension law was abolished, foreign residents became legally eligible to join the public pension system.

      The requirements for foreigners to receive public assistance and the amount of benefits they can receive are the same as what applies for Japanese, because the system is geared to ensure the minimum standard of living.

      The Japan Pension Service believes that while all Japanese on welfare should qualify for the full waiver of premiums for the state-run pension plan, foreign residents who have jobs but are on welfare due to low income should not. They may have to pay some of the legally required premiums based on their income level.

      For example, a foreigner living alone who earned ¥570,000 or more the previous year may now be required to pay some of the around ¥180,000 in annual premiums, if the current waiver is revoked.

      “JPS and the welfare ministry must have been aware that foreign residents on welfare nationwide have been waived from the national pension premiums,” said Shinichiro Nakashima, head of Kumustaka, a group based in the city of Kumamoto that supports foreign residents.

      “Foreign residents who won’t be able to pay the premium could end up with no pension benefits in the future. (The government) should abolish the nationality clause in the public assistance law, and treat foreign residents the same as Japanese.”

      An official at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, which oversees the pension service, said that “it’s not that we’ve changed the policy. We are just restoring what should have been the case. While it depends on income levels, I would think many will still see payments entirely waived in reality” even under the new guideline.
      ENDS

    6. AM Says:

      @Welp

      Just want to make sure you realize: the actual authors of Japan’s constitution (the victors) clearly wrote in the beginning “People” (NOT limited to nationality), yet the sneaky translators changed that to “国民” (limited to nationality).

    7. Mr B Says:

      Heavily agree with poster #2… there needs to be an anti discrimination law that is enforced in some way.

    8. Baudrillard Says:

      I came across a blog the other day which suggests that Japan signed a UN treaty in 1994 against both anti discrimination and child abduction….but does not implement it domestically. Does anyone know which treaty this would be?

      Mr B above says we need a law. But we have already seen many examples-such as with the post office and the new alien cards-that even if a law is passed, local authorities think they can ignore it.

      I blame Japan’s top down approach. If governments pass laws that are not relevant to societies, society ignores them as much as possible. America pressures the GOJ to pass legislation, and rightists block local implementation.

      If there is not a significant groundswelling of support for NJ rights, the knee jerk right and media will always derail any progressive legislation.Unless the government implements it at gunpoint or batonpoint at the grassroots level. Take the segregation the American South despite liberal legislation; it took strong government action to force, e.g. integrated schooling and civil rights.

      Where are the ordinary Japanese who will stand shoulder to shoulder with NJs in favor of NJ civil rights? There seem to be precious few.

      – That’s one of the questions I’m seeking to answer in my research. More on this later.

    9. Welp Says:

      @AM
      What the translators did or didn’t do doesn’t matter – what matters is the wording of the (Japanese) sections to which you refer.

      @Loverilakkuma
      I was merely replying to the first comment – my post had pretty much nothing to do with the actual article. Probably should have put an “@post #1″ up top, I apologize for the confusion.

      And I absolutely agree that there needs to be a blanket, unambiguous anti-discrimination law in Japan. It peeves me very much when the local city hall sends out anti-discrimination newsletters with examples ranging from old people to women to people with disabilities, and then completely leaves out foreigners.

      – I would love a copy of those newsletters (or even one). Could you scan one and send it to debito@debito.org? Thanks a heap.

    10. Scipio Says:

      5.AM Says:

      Just want to make sure you realize: the actual authors of Japan’s constitution (the victors) clearly wrote in the beginning “People” (NOT limited to nationality), yet the sneaky translators changed that to “国民” (limited to nationality).

      Not exactly politically true and untruths weaken the case. The constitution was ratified by the Japanese Diet in October 1947 and it quite clearly states ‘kokumin’.

      What has happened is that Kokumin, which is a fluid semantic term, a bit like ‘Gay’ in English, has evolved in modern Japanese history from originally meaning the samurai and the exclusion of all others to meaning the nation, when Kokutai was used for citizen, to now meaning citizen.

      As an issue of jurisprudence it would be quite interesting for someone to challenge what the term denoted in 1947 because that was when the constition was being ratified by the Diet. I’m sure that the semantics of the term in 1947 were much closer to Fukuzawa’s definition of nation than the modern definition of citizen.

      However in the end it really would be a moot point because the Japanese like their apartheid system. However it might cause a bit of an international furor if Japan had to write a modern clause and explicitly said in that clause that basic human rights were the exclusive right of citizens only

      – Quite. But I think that’s what AM is calling “sneaky.” Although legal precedent has established that human rights protections in civil court will technically apply equally to citizens and non-citizens, differences in application by nationality become apparent through the application of what John W. Dower (1999: 393-4) unequivocally calls the “blatantly racist… linguistic subterfuge” endemic to Japan’s postwar Constitutional history. Dower labels it the product of “language games” in translations, deliberately chosen to eliminate equal civil rights and protections under the law for resident non-citizens. To quote Dower precisely:


      In a reactionary direction, the government and subsequently the Diet succeeded in eliminating equal protection under the law for resident aliens, thus undermining GHQ’s original intent. The groundwork for this move was laid by Sato Tatsuo in the hours immediately following the marathon translation session, when he sent a seemingly trivial request to Government Section requesting permission to delite the article in question on the grounds that it was redundant, given protections guaranteed elsewhere in the draft charter. The Americans approved this, unaware that the language games the Japanese side was playing excluded foreigners from such protective coverage. The key term here was kokumin, the word deliberately chosen to cast constitutional references to “the people” in a more nationalistic context. Essentially, the conservatives used kokumin not merely to weaken the connotations of popular sovereignty, but also to limit the rights guaranteed by the state to Japanese nationals alone. Where the Americans had intended to affirm that “all persons” are equal before the law, and included language in the GHQ draft that explicitly forbade discrimination in the basis of race or national origin, Sato and his colleagues erased these guarantees through linguistic subterfuge. By interpreting kokumin as referring to “all nationals,” which was indeed a logical construction of the term, the government succeeded in denying equal civil rights to the hundreds of thousands of resident ex-colonial subjects, including Taiwanese and especially Koreans. The blatantly racist nature of this revision was subsequently reinforced by “terminological” revisions during the Diet deliberations, and this provided the basis for discriminatory legislation governing nationality passed in 1950.

      Thus, I’m not sure Dower would agree with your benign assessment of kokumin either in terms of evolutionary etymology or in practical application.

    11. Citizen Says:

      I think foreigners living in Japan should become Japanese citizens as soon as they had the chance. Then they can fight in equal terms, follow Debito example.

      I think that is the Zainichi community mistake, they should become Japanese citizens and remain Korean at heart. And they have the right to demand Japanese nationality. The question is Japanese authorities know Zainichi are too proud.

      And Gaijjns (I mean Westerners :) talk the flak but don’t walk the walk… Including myself :P

      Anyone?

      – I think you’re oversimplifying the Zainichi’s case for not naturalizing.

    12. debito Says:

      Good news… the GOJ backtracks:

      Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012
      Foreigners on welfare get pension waiver OK
      Kyodo News, courtesy of MMT
      http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20121021a2.html

      The government will retain the longtime policy of exempting foreign residents on welfare from paying public pension premiums, officials said Saturday.

      The welfare ministry will give notice of the decision, which goes against a recommendation by the Japan Pension Service, to local governments across the country soon, the officials said.

      A guideline drafted this summer by the government-linked body that oversees the public pension system called for the payment waiver for foreigners to be terminated, but it came under criticism for being tantamount to discrimination based on nationality.

      To become eligible for the waiver, foreigners living on welfare benefits must first apply to local authorities in person, according to officials at the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

      Prior to the Japan Pension Service’s Aug. 10 guideline, foreign residents were treated in the same way as Japanese citizens. Foreign nationals have been subject to the public assistance law since 1954.

      In fiscal 2010, roughly 1.4 million households were receiving public assistance, 42,000 of which were headed by foreign residents, according to government data.

      The government’s flip-flop immediately drew criticism from support groups for foreign residents living on welfare benefits for its failure to come up with fundamental solutions for the public pension system.

      Shinichiro Nakashima, who heads Kumustaka, a support group for non-Japanese residents in the city of Kumamoto, partially welcomed the latest development but agreed that the government appears to be trying to avoid tackling the issue at a basic level.

      “The government must remove the nationality clause from the public assistance law and treat both Japanese and foreigners equally,” Nakashima, an expert on public assistance for foreigners, argued.
      ENDS

    13. debito Says:

      Japan Times Editorial:

      Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012
      EDITORIAL
      Why the welfare discrimination?

      The Japan Pension Service has told municipal governments to end automatic waivers for pension premiums for foreigners on public assistance. The automatic waiver allowed foreigners, like Japanese nationals, to forego the monthly premium on their pension when receiving public assistance. The change in policy means that thousands of foreigners will no longer automatically receive a full waiver for the required premium payment into the national pension system. Instead, foreigners must now apply to receive the waiver.

      This change does little to rectify what is often a confusing process for welfare applicants, especially those who are permanent residents, official refugees or spouses of Japanese. In cities such as Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, where 24,000 foreigners live, or Nagoya with 63,000 foreign residents, the additional form will be one more hurdle in the process of applying for welfare. The paperwork may be relatively simple, but municipal officials will face additional work and applicants one more obstacle to receiving help. […]

      Whatever the actual reasons for this change, which the ministry did not seem forthcoming about, the positive benefits of this change remain in doubt. Asking a group of people to fill in one more application form, even if that group is small, is not a solution to the problem of public assistance or future pensions, much less the current economic conditions that make it difficult for some families to fully support themselves.

      Full article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/ed20121021a2.html
      ENDS

    14. Man in Holland Says:

      >Where are the ordinary Japanese who will stand shoulder to shoulder with NJs in favor of NJ civil rights?

      http://www.jil.go.jp/profile/documents/Shipper2.pdf

      – Thanks for this. Your interpretation of this article is welcome (as is information about the publisher and the date of this publication).

      BTW, I have tried to contact you directly offlist regarding a previous matter. It would help if you provided a genuine email address when you write to Debito.org.

    15. Man in Holland Says:

      It’s part of a book. The best English-language coverage on civil advocacy and foreigners’ rights in Japan, in my opinion. Published by Cornell and also praised by Harumi Befu as well as David Leheny at Princeton.

      http://www.amazon.com/Fighting-Foreigners-Immigration-Japanese-Democracy/dp/0801447151/ref=la_B001JS65JW_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1350942842&sr=1-1

      Leheny has also written a very readable book on the culture of fear constructed by official Japan.

      http://www.amazon.com/Think-Global-Fear-Local-Contemporary/dp/0801444187

      It received mixed reviews in the academic world, perhaps for good reason. It tends to conflate a lot of issues (e.g. terrorism and child sex trafficking laws are kind of rolled into one).

      Of course, there are also a number of books on foreigners’ rights in Japanese.

      http://www.amazon.co.jp/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?__mk_ja_JP=%83J%83%5E%83J%83i&url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=%8AO%8D%91%90l%81%40%90l%8C%A0&x=0&y=0

      Let me add that I’m trying not to provide any interpretation here. I’m responding to a specific question from one of your readers.

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