In a stunning decision, Japan’s Supreme Court overturns Fukuoka High Court, rules that NJ Permanent Residents (etc.) not automatically eligible for social welfare benefits
Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on July 18th, 2014
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Hi Blog. There has already been an enormous outpouring of outrage at Friday’s Supreme Court decision in Japan’s NJ communities, so Debito.org will echo those sentiments and provide a forum for them to also be expressed here.
In an event sure to make my year-end top ten most important human rights issues of 2014, Japan’s highest court just overturned the Fukuoka High Court’s 2011 decision, ruling that an octogenarian granny who, despite being born in Japan, living her life here as a Zainichi Special Permanent Resident, and contributing to Japan’s social welfare systems, has no right to the benefits of her contributions because she’s foreign (i.e., not “kokumin”). More comment after the articles:
NATIONAL / SOCIAL ISSUES
Foreign residents can’t claim welfare benefits: Supreme Court
Japan Times/KYODO JUL 18, 2014, Courtesy lots of people
The Supreme Court ruled Friday that foreigners with permanent residency status are ineligible for welfare benefits, overturning a decision by the Fukuoka High Court that had acknowledged their eligibility under the public assistance law.
The decision by the top court’s Second Petit Bench concerned a lawsuit filed by an 82-year-old Chinese woman with permanent residency who was born and grew up in Japan.
The woman applied for welfare benefits with the Oita municipal office in Oita Prefecture in December 2008 but was denied the benefits on the grounds she had some savings.
The woman then filed a suit demanding that the city’s decision be repealed. She is now receiving the benefits because the municipality accepted her welfare application in October 2011.
While the recipients of welfare benefits are limited to Japanese nationals by law, the government issued a notice in 1954 saying foreigners should be treated in accordance with the public assistance law.
Since the government limited recipients to Japanese nationals and foreigners with permanent residency in 1990, municipalities have exercised their discretion in doling out the benefits.
In October 2010, the Oita District Court rejected the plaintiff’s suit, saying that denying the public assistance law to foreigners was within the discretion of a municipal government.
In November 2011, however, the Fukuoka High Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, saying that foreigners with permanent residency have been protected under the public assistance law.
NHK 7月18日 17時49分, Courtesy PKU
COMMENT: The implications of this are pretty obvious: NJ can be taxed and exploited at will, but if there’s ever a question of the local government not thinking that NJ deserve social welfare benefits, too bad, because they’re not guaranteed. We’ll just take your money and deprive you of any guarantee that you’ll ever any equal benefit from it.
I’ve written about this case numerous times before. Excerpts:
Kyodo: Court overrules Oita Pref who tried to deny a 78-year-old NJ welfare benefits
Kyodo: A Japanese court repealed on Thursday a decision by Oita Prefecture in southwestern Japan not to examine a request from a 78-year-old Chinese woman to look into a decision by Oita City that rejected her application for welfare benefits.
A three-judge panel at the Oita District Court acted on a suit filed by the woman, who has obtained permanent residency status in Japan, against the Oita prefectural government decision that turned away the woman’s request, filed in February last year, to examine the Oita municipal government decision not to provide welfare benefits to her.
The prefectural government dismissed the woman’s request without examining it, saying she was not eligible to seek benefits because she does not have Japanese nationality.
In Thursday’s ruling, the district court said the prefectural government must review the municipal government decision in line with the woman’s request, and decide whether she should be given benefits.
Presiding Judge Kenji Kanamitsu brushed aside the prefectural government’s argument that the city’s decision not to provide her with benefits was a ”unilateral administrative action” against a foreigner who has no right to seek welfare benefits, and not an ”administrative decision” as she claimed, whose appropriateness can be reviewed under the administrative appeal law.
Judge Kanamitsu said the woman is ”obviously” eligible to ask the prefectural government to review the municipal government decision.
”An application for welfare benefits has been rejected, and it means the same to the applicants, regardless of their nationalities,” the judge said…
17) Mainichi: “NJ have no right to welfare payments”, rules Oita District Court two weeks later. Gee that was a quick kibosh.
After a half-month interlude of light and reason (as in September 30 to October 18), where it actually looked like a Japanese courtroom was actually going to be nice to somebody and rule against The State, another court has come along and put things back to normal:
Mainichi: The Oita District Court ruled on Oct. 18 that foreigners with the right to permanent residence but without Japanese citizenship are not entitled to welfare benefits, rejecting the claims of a 78-year-old Chinese woman who sued after being denied benefits by the Oita city government…
According to the ruling, the woman has Chinese nationality but was born in Japan and holds the right to permanent residence. In December 2008, the woman applied to the welfare office in Oita city for welfare payments, but was turned down with the reason that she had “a comfortable amount of money” in her savings.
The main issues of the trial became whether the woman held the right as a foreigner to receive welfare payments and whether her financial status justified her receiving aid…”
COMMENT: Gee, that was quick by Japanese judicial standards! I guess they know the value of putting the kibosh on something before the floodgates open: Can’t have all the goddamn foreigners expecting to have rights to something like our social welfare benefits, especially at an advanced age.
Then, as the clock continues to run out for this superannuated NJ, we now have another flip, fortunately in the more inclusive direction:
Court rules noncitizens are eligible for welfare
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Nov. 17, 2011), courtesy of lots of people
FUKUOKA–The Fukuoka High Court ruled Tuesday that permanent residents in in Japan with foreign nationalities are eligible to receive public welfare assistance, overturning a lower court ruling.
The high court accepted an appeal by a 79-year-old woman who is a permanent resident in Japan with Chinese nationality. She filed the lawsuit, claiming that the Oita city government illegally rejected her request for public welfare assistance.
Presiding Judge Hiroshi Koga said in the ruling, “Foreign citizens with permanent residency [in Japan] are legally guaranteed the same status as Japanese citizens who receive the same treatment.”
The high court overturned the Oita District Court’s ruling and nullified the Oita city government’s decision not to grant the woman public welfare benefits.
According to a lawyer for the plaintiff, it is the nation’s first court ruling to present a legal basis for foreign permanent residents in Japan to receive public welfare benefits.
According to the ruling, the woman applied for the public welfare at the Oita city government in December 2008, but the city government rejected her request.
The point at issue in the lawsuit was whether the Daily Life Protection Law can be applied to noncitizens.
Full blog entry at http://www.debito.org/?p=9658
And as I wrote in my Japan Times column of January 3, 2012, where I was ranking the Top Ten Human Rights Issues of 2012 for NJ in Japan:
6. Oita denial of benefits overturned
In 2008, Oita Prefecture heartlessly rejected a welfare application from a 78-year-old Chinese (a permanent resident born in Japan) because she is somehow still a foreigner. Then, in a shocking ruling on the case two years later, the Oita District Court decreed that NJ are not automatically eligible for social welfare. Finally, in November, this stubborn NJ, in her 80th year, won a reversal at the Fukuoka High Court — on the grounds that international law and treaty created obligations for “refugees (sic) (to be accorded) treatment at least as favorable as that accorded to their nationals.”
What caused the confusion was that in 1981, the Diet decided that revising the public welfare law to eliminate nationality requirements was unnecessary, since practical application already provided NJ with benefits. Three decades later, Oita Prefecture and its district court still hadn’t gotten the memo.
Bravo for this NJ for staying alive long enough to prize her case away from xenophobic local bureaucrats and set congruent legal precedents for all NJ.
Full article at http://www.debito.org/?p=9837
And now the pendulum has swung again, with a great big Bronx Cheer for all NJ in Japan.
My final thought on this for now is how the online commenters (who consistently blame NJ for anything bad that happens to them) spin this one against the plaintiff? It’s a challenge: She’s an 82-year-old granny Zainichi living her entire life in Japan trying to get her tax benefits back, for heaven’s sake. Still, the reflexes are kicking in. We’ve already had one person commenting at the Japan Times about how this ruling was a means to deal with “illegal immigrants” somehow (the JT immediately spotted this as trolling and deleted it; wish they would be more proactive with my columns, as trolls keep derailing any meaningful debate). Any more gems out there, go ahead and quote them in the Comments section below. A ruling this egregiously anti-NJ becomes an interesting psychological experiment to see how far the self-hating gaijin will go to deny they have any rights to anything whatsoever in Japan. Dr. ARUDOU, Debito
UPDATE JULY 25, 2014: THIS VERY BLOG ENTRY GETS CITED IN THE SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST. THANKS!
Anger erupts over court denial of welfare to foreign permanent residents of Japan
Japanese Supreme Court rules that a Chinese permanent resident is not entitled to payouts even though she has paid taxes all her life
SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST : Monday, 21 July, 2014,
Julian Ryall in Tokyo
Activists, analysts and foreign residents of Japan have reacted with dismay to a decision by the Supreme Court that foreigners with permanent residency are not entitled to welfare benefits.
Friday’s ruling by the highest court means that even foreign nationals born in Japan, who have spent all their lives in the country and paid their taxes, national insurance premiums and state pension requirements are still not guaranteed to receive financial support when they need it.
The Supreme Court’s decision overturned an earlier ruling by the Fukuoka high court that granted welfare to an 82-year-old Chinese woman who was born and raised in Japan.
The woman had applied for assistance to the municipal office in Oita prefecture in December 2008, but her request was refused because she had savings. The woman launched a legal case demanding that the decision be reversed on the grounds that she had paid taxes to the national and prefectural governments throughout her life.
In the first ruling of its kind, the Supreme Court stated that, from a legal standpoint, permanent foreign residents do not qualify for public assistance because they are not Japanese.
The ruling apparently gives local authorities across Japan the legal right to halt financial assistance to non-Japanese residents. The fact that many municipalities across the country are facing economic hardship may increase the risk of city governments seeking to exercise that right.
“It’s shameful,” said Eric Fior, a French national who owns a language school in Yokohama and who has lived in Japan for more than a decade.
“It’s bad enough that foreign residents do not have the right to vote at any level in Japan, but when you pay your taxes and contribute to the pension scheme, it’s something of an insult to be told that you have no right to get some of that money back when you need it,” he said.
“I imagine that many foreign residents will be asking themselves why they have to pay their taxes.”
The Oita case has been followed closely by Debito Arudou, a naturalised Japanese who was born in the United States and has become a leading rights activist after being refused access to a public bath in Hokkaido because he is “foreign”.
“The implications of this are pretty obvious,” Arudou wrote in his most recent blog posting. “Non-Japanese can be taxed and exploited at will, but if there’s ever a question of the local government thinking that nonJapanese deserve social welfare benefits, too bad because they’re not guaranteed,” he wrote.
“We’ll just take your money and deprive you of any guarantee that you’ll ever get any equal benefit from it.”
The post has generated heated comment. One person wrote: “The sheer pettiness and nastiness of the court’s decision just disgusts me.”
Other posters said the decision would have an impact on the government’s campaign to attract skilled foreign nationals to work in Japan in an effort to combat the dramatically shrinking population.
Conservatives have applauded the court’s decision.
“The state cannot provide benefits to all the poor people who come to Japan,” said Yoichi Shimada, a professor of international relations at Fukui Prefectural University.
“The problem in this particular case is that the woman chose not to take Japanese nationality and chose to remain Chinese,” he said. “If Japan allowed all foreign residents unlimited access to welfare, then the country would go bust.”
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Foreigners riled over welfare ruling