Adverse revision of social services hampers economic recovery and impairs livelihoods

On April 1, one year since the nursing care insurance system was implemented in Japan, Akahata's editorial criticized the government for making the people increasingly anxious about their future by adversely revising social services and causing restraint on spending money. Excerpts of the editorial follow:

In 70 percent of municipalities, funds for nursing care insurance services were underused because many elderly people showed restraint in using the services for which they have to share costs. Establishing a system of payment exemption or reduction is an urgent demand.

A survey shows that 45 percent of the respondents are curbing their expenditure out of concern about their future.

Their anxieties are not only about the nursing care insurance system but also about the pension system. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has changed the national pension scheme to delay by stages the starting age of receiving annuity. A 40-year-old married couple will lose 10 million yen or 80,000 dollars in their benefit.

The adverse revision of social services also affects the unemployed. The number of weeks during which unemployment benefit is paid will be substantially cut from April, while unemployment insurance contributions has increased.

Cuts in benefits and increases in costs combined as the result of the adverse revision of social service systems in 2000 and 2001 amounts to the loss of 3 trillion yen or 24 billion dollars for the people.

The government also has plans to adversely revise medical services for the elderly and other welfare programs. It is absolutely necessary to freeze all these plans so that some of the people's anxieties about their future is removed.

During the freeze period, it is necessary for the government to establish a social services system on which the people can rely. This will only be achieved by correcting the upside-down national fiscal structure in which 50 trillion yen or 400 billion dollars is spent on public works projects, with 20 trillion yen or 160 billion dollars on social services.

The present government policy will further hamper economic recovery and will make life in old age even more miserable than now. (end)