Fun Facts #19: JT: Supreme Court denying welfare for NJ residents inspires exclusionary policy proposals by fringe politicians; yet the math does not equal the hype


eBooks, Books, and more from ARUDOU, Debito (click on icon):
Guidebookcover.jpgjapaneseonlyebookcovertextHandbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)sourstrawberriesavatardebitopodcastthumbFodorsJapan2014cover
UPDATES ON TWITTER: arudoudebito
DEBITO.ORG PODCASTS on iTunes, subscribe free
“LIKE” US on Facebook at
If you like what you read and discuss on, please consider helping us stop hackers and defray maintenance costs with a little donation via my webhoster:
Donate towards my web hosting bill!
All donations go towards website costs only. Thanks for your support!

Hi Blog.  Further setting and normalizing the national narrative for denying NJ their due as supporters of Japan’s social safety net, here is another article from the Japan Times charting the moves of the exclusionists.  Afterwards is a comment doing the math behind the hype, exposing it as just that:  hype.  But of course, nobody in the press seems to want to do their sums and expose it for the non-story it should be.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito


Ruling denying welfare for foreign residents finds homegrown, biased support

The landmark Supreme Court ruling in July that found permanent residents of Japan legally ineligible for public assistance is already having an impact. Moves are afoot both at the national and local levels to try to scale back or remove welfare payments to foreign residents.

In a lawsuit filed by an 82-year-old Chinese woman from Oita Prefecture, the nation’s top court made it clear that permanent foreign residents do not qualify for public assistance because they are not Japanese nationals. Article 1 of the 1950 Public Assistance Law states the law concerns “all nationals,” which the court said referred only to Japanese citizens.

Despite the ruling, the welfare ministry has stood by its long-standing policy of offering the same level of welfare protection to foreigners as Japanese, based on a notice it issued to municipal governments in 1954.

In line with the ministry policy, the municipal governments have distributed welfare benefits — ranging from cash assistance to free health care services to housing aid — to needy foreigners with permanent or long-term residency status, including the spouses of Japanese and migrant workers from Brazil.

But the July ruling has given momentum to some forces, including those harboring anti-foreigner sentiments and advocates of cutting “waste” in government spending, to try to limit foreigners’ access to welfare.

The minor opposition party Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations), co-founded by ultranationalist Shintaro Ishihara, plans to submit bills to the extraordinary Diet session that would give destitute foreigners a year to choose between two extremes: becoming naturalized citizens or leaving the country.

The move follows an August proposal, by a team of lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Democratic party tasked with eliminating wasteful state spending, to restrict welfare assistance to foreigners.

“The welfare outlays to foreigners run up to ¥122 billion per year,” the Aug. 4 report by the LDP team said. “We must say it is difficult to maintain the status quo.”

The team also said the government “should create guidelines (on public assistance) for foreigners who arrive in Japan, and consider deporting those who cannot maintain a living.”

Taro Kono, a member of the Lower House who heads the LDP project team, said the envisioned revision to the welfare system would not affect permanent residents, but those on mid- to long-term visas. The changes would likely materialize in the form of denied access to public aid for a certain period after one’s arrival in Japan, to prevent abuse by those coming here just to receive welfare, he said. He added that the team has yet to decide on the number of months or years before foreigners would be granted access.

According to Kono, the rationale for creating a probational period is a provision in the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law that states the government would deny entry to “a person who is likely to become a burden on the Japanese government or a local public entity because of an inability to make a living.”

“People who come to Japan on mid- to long-term visas would undergo a lot of events here, and some of them might lose their ability to make a living and apply for public assistance. That’s fine. But if they apply for assistance right after they arrive in Japan, that would mean they made a false claim (about their reason for coming),” Kono told The Japan Times earlier this month.

“Likewise when they renew their visas, they are supposed to have means to support themselves or otherwise their requests for visa renewals would be rejected. But if it turns out that they cannot sustain their living in, say, six months after their visas are renewed, that would mean they were not truthful about their means when they applied for a renewed visa, and (this would constitute) grounds for denial of public assistance.”

The LDP team also proposed that all welfare recipients be prescribed generic drugs unless otherwise specified by doctors. If they want to be prescribed patented drugs, they should pay for their share of the costs, according to the team’s report.

The team’s proposal for an eligibility requirement for foreigners based on their period of stay appears to be more or less in line with practices in other advanced countries.

Most European countries do not have a nationality clause for welfare benefits, but do list a residency period as a condition for eligibility, said Shinichi Oka, a professor of social security at Meiji Gakuin University in Tokyo.

At the same time, in Europe there is little distinction among different visa statuses, Oka said, noting that whether people have permanent resident status doesn’t affect their chances of qualifying for welfare.

“I’m not aware of any major European countries that (enforce) a nationality clause for public assistance eligibility,” Oka said. “The only requirement they have is that the applicants have lived in the country for a certain period of time.”

While the U.S. and Britain in principle deny welfare benefits to illegal aliens, in France, foreigners who have entered or are staying illegally in the country are also considered as “having the right to live” and are often deemed eligible for welfare benefits, Oka said.



From the comments below the JT article. Readers, go ahead and take apart the numbers if you like:


Charles: “The amount of welfare being paid to foreigners is 122 billion yen! That’s a really big number!” That’s what the average man on the street thinks.

But wait a second, let’s actually do the math. Yeah, I know, you hate math, but it’s okay, we can use a calculator!

Japan’s GDP is 536,122,300,000,000 yen (over 536 TRILLION yen). So 122 billion yen is less than 0.03% of Japan’s economy. Basically, Shintaro Ishihara with his Jisedai no Tou, and the LDP, are wasting countless hours of time on something that, at best, will save Japan 0.03% of its GDP.

To make an analogy, I make about $28,000 a year. So this is the same as me OBSESSING and LOSING SLEEP AT NIGHT over how I can save $8 per year.

I think that maybe instead of spending all this time obsessing over 0.03% of its GDP, Japanese politicians should instead spend that time reviewing their math notes from elementary school, especially division, multiplication, and percentages. If they did that, they might find that this problem isn’t nearly as big as they’d thought.[…]

“According to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan’s total social welfare benefits reached ¥103.487 trillion in fiscal 2010, topping ¥100 trillion for the first time.”

Okay, so in Japan, the total welfare budget is 103.487 trillion yen. But only 0.122 trillion yen of that goes to foreigners, so that means that the other 103.365 trillion yen are going to Japanese people!

Here, let’s do some more math:

103.487 trillion yen / 127 million Japanese = Each Japanese person is, on average, sucking 814,858 yen per year from the welfare system!

Now let’s do the math for foreigners:

122 billion yen / 2 million foreigners = Each foreigner is, on average, sucking 61,000 yen per year from the welfare system!

So…who’s REALLY sucking welfare, here? I guess I now know where my income tax (所得税) and 8% consumption tax (消費税) are going, now…

…you’re welcome, Japan!


9 comments on “Fun Facts #19: JT: Supreme Court denying welfare for NJ residents inspires exclusionary policy proposals by fringe politicians; yet the math does not equal the hype

  • Sakurauchi of Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations) has said that foreigners who are having a hard time should not receive welfare but “food stamps and and other aid but only for a limited period—most likely a year.” “In this period foreigners will have a choice –either they leave Japan or they seek naturalization. If they want to continue to subsist on our money, I’d say be naturalized”

    Is this guy serious? Wouldn’t the naturalization application of person who cannot support himself or herself be rejected from the start? I read Japanese and the opinion of most people who support Jisedai no To indicate that this is just tatemae. The tatemae is 帰化を求めるべき =They should seek naturalization. But the 本音 is 帰国すべき=they should leave Japan after their naturalization request has been denied because there is no way that they would be granted citizenship.

    Does anyone know if the naturalization petition of a person in need of welfare would automatically be rejected. If so, Sakurauchi is speaking with a forked tongue

  • If Sakurauchi is referring to special permanent residents who were born here and whose parents and grandparents may well have been born here,then it might be a different story as it may be difficult to deny citizenship to special permanent residents. I would be interested to hear the opinions of Debito and others who are more familiar than I am with this situation.

  • Yep, studies show (like this from University College London) that citizens are the financial parasites (costing the state more than they contribute in taxes) while the immigrants are the financial supporters (contributing more in taxes per person when compared to citizens) thus it is surpsisingly the opposite of what the right wingers claim, it turns out real data shows that immigrant residents are relatively more financially profitable for the state.

    “Between 1995 and 2011 EEA immigrants living in Britain paid in 4 per cent more than they took out, whereas native-born Brits only paid in 93 per cent of what they received.”

    “Between 2001 and 2011 recent EEA immigrants living in Britain contributed 34 per cent more than they took out, a net contribution of £22bn.”

    Debito’s inclusion of how the data here in Japan shows a similar situation is hard to debate:

    “103.487 trillion yen / 127 million Japanese = Each Japanese person is, on average, sucking 814,858 yen per year from the welfare system”

    “122 billion yen / 2 million foreigners = Each foreigner is, on average, sucking 61,000 yen per year from the welfare system”

    Well proven. It is obvious which group is comparatively better financially for the benefit of Japan, it is the hard-working immigrants.

  • From friend Louis Carlet of the Tozen Union:

    Otake’s article is mistaken on two major points. First, the Supreme Court in no way found foreigners ineligible for welfare. Second, the ruling, far from landmark, upheld the status quo.

    The highest court overturned the High Court’s actual landmark ruling which said that foreigners have “quasi rights” to welfare.

    Up until then foreigners never had the “guaranteed right” (kenri) to welfare but they were and are eligible just like Japanese citizens.

    I think the problem is mistranslation. Kenri means a guaranteed right whereas “no right” in English suggests ineligible.

    The only difference arising from not having the kenri is that if the welfare office rejects an application from a citizen then the Japanese person can appeal the decision to the office. A foreigner with no kenri for welfare cannot appeal at the office but only in court.

    That is the ONLY difference between how foreigners and Japanese are treated by the welfare office.

    Foreigners get welfare just like Japanese do. In fact the plaintiff currently gets welfare although originally rejected.

  • This has nothing to do with balancing the budget. It’s to punish those of us who had the bad taste not to be born Japanese.

  • In 1950 the Legislators legislated clearly: “Bureaucrats are required to give welfare money to ‘ALL proven-poor-applicants, REGARDLESS of nationality’.”

    In 2014 the Judges ruled differently: “Bureaucrats are required to give welfare money to ‘ALL JAPANESE proven-poor-applicants, foreigners lost the 1950 right’.”

    So now the defenders of this new nationality-limitation-ruling say, “Well, SOME bureaucrats SOMETIMES give welfare money to SOME of the proven-poor-applicants-who-are-foreigners.”

    The answer to that is, “The 1950 law required ALL bureaucrats to ALWAYS give welfare money to ‘ALL proven-poor-applicants, REGARDLESS of nationality’ ALWAYS.”

    Before ALL victims of bureaucrats refusing to obey the 1950 law could seek redress, but the 2014 ruling says that only Japanese-victims of bureaucrats refusing to obey the 1950 law can seek redress.

  • Debito, I am very glad Louis Carlet wrote to you – I had been preparing a similar message, but his is a more authoritative voice than mine. There has been some very bad press coverage in English about this ruling, coverage which is potentially damaging for foreigners. If people wrongly believe they cannot get a benefit, they will not try to claim it. Foreigners are still eligible for this benefit (known as seikatsu hogo), and have been since the 1950s, and they get it, and on the same terms as Japanese, by dint of a Ministry notice that the ruling recognised (and which is part of Japan meeting obligations under international treaties; it’s not a fragile ornament). All this is important to know as it’s no fun being destitute.

    I particularly appreciate Louis’ description of the appeal situation, which confirms something which had been leaking out in between the poor reporting: the plaintiff in the original case didn’t even have her court appeal reversed. The ruling has that little impact on the day to day situation for non-citizens. (Not that the lack of right of appeal in the office directly is a good thing, but still, I hope your readers get the point.) Newspapers have contacted municipalities with large foreign populations and they have confirmed: absolutely no change in practice. My own contacts in local government have said the same thing, and were quite distressed at the misinformation going around social media in English.

    I hope you will allow me a clarification that adds to Louis Carlet’s message, and to point out a related an important error made by the Japan Times commenter Charles in the calculations that you borrowed, an error that he graciously admitted in later comments when I pointed it out to him. Once this error is taken into account, and once you delve into the figures, I think it becomes clear that the target of the right-wing party’s suggested reforms is – inevitably – not westerners, but zainichi Koreans.

    The clarification that needs to be repeated over and over again is that “welfare” here does not mean “welfare” in its biggest sense of all social expenditures, such as pensions, health costs, unemployment insurance and so on. It does not mean shakai hoken in any sense at all. Welfare in this limited sense is a means-tested benefit for people who have fallen through the gaps of insurance-based social protection because they cannot contribute, or are not under the umbrella of a contributor. The main recipients are long-term disabled, single mothers (abandoned by their partners) and elderly with inadequate or no pension rights. It is a completely different system to shakai hoken and operates on a different logic of desert and eligibility. Broadly speaking, the same social insurance/social assistance split operates in large parts of the industrialised world. Japan more or less imported its system from Europe.

    To repeat: welfare here does not mean shakai hoken. Please rest easy, and do NOT consider opting out based on this ruling; it’s got nothing legally or logically to do with shakai hoken. And in any case, welfare is not being taken away. People in dire straits need to know that.

    To the calculations: The specific error Charles made (and acknowledged) was to take the budget for all social expenditures – including social insurance expenditures such as pensions – and compare that to expenditure on foreign recipients of one specific benefit – seikatsu hogo.

    If I may run the actual calculations for you, we’ll get a clearer picture, and I think we’ll possibly see more clearly the motivations for a far right Japanese nationalist party in acting on this:

    The seikatsu hogo budget for the whole of Japan was 3.8 trillion yen in 2014, according to an NHK report this year (the page has expired, unfortunately). If we assume that the 122 billion figure in the Japan Times article is correct, then we have “foreign” recipients taking up 3.2% of all seikatsu hogo expenditures. With a “foreign” population of just under 2%, that does actually mean that “foreigners” are taking more than their share of seikatsu hogo.

    However, we can delve further into the figures to find out who these “foreigners” are. If you look at the excel file at no. 15 in this list, you can see the breakdown (the data are a few years old, but they’re almost certainly representative of the situation now):

    What should jump out at you is that 66% of all recipients are Koreans – almost all probably zainichi SPRs: a group that really stretches the concept of “foreign”, I’m sure you’ll agree. Of those Koreans, and quite disproportionately compared to other groups, around half of the recipients are old people. I would hazard a guess that this is a strong reflection of the economic disenfranchisement of the first post-war generation of zainichi. These are people who were disproportionately not properly or poorly integrated into the economy and welfare system. (For what it’s worth, incomer “foreigners” claim less than their “share”, but this shouldn’t be too surprising or interpreted as anything meaningful, as residence status is attached to visa status, is attached to good evidence of financial stability. Of course there are going to be fewer incomer recipients.)

    Let’s combine this fact that Koreans make up the bulk of recipients with the far-right party’s suggestion that “foreign” recipients should naturalise or leave. For a westerner claiming social assistance, it would be very hard indeed to naturalise if you could not demonstrate financial stability. It’s pretty much out of the question. However, for zainichi Koreans, that financial stability condition doesn’t apply. The rules for SPR naturalisation are not strict.

    So it looks to me like an attempt to coerce elderly impoverished zainichi Koreans into giving up their nationality and identity. That’s why this relatively small amount of budget money matters to these thoroughly unpleasant people.

    — Excellent post. Thank you very much for it.

  • Loverilakkuma says:

    @OsFish, #8

    I just checked out the stats for eligible foreigners who applied for public assistance. The number is pretty much what I expect from its approximate percentage (2.1-2.3%) of all (+2.1 million). It just explains the absurdity of right-wing fanatics who charge foreigners are stealing money, regarding that public assistance is nothing more than a lottery.

    The chance to receive public assistance is very small for both Japanese and foreigners. And speaking of the budget, I am very skeptical that the government is willing to allot all or most funds for this purpose. The delay in post-disaster reconstruction shows their ineptitude in providing the aids effectively. I wonder if evacuees who are forced to leave their hometown and living in temporary housing facilities after 3/11–without substantial income– are eligible for public assistance.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>