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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 November 14 - 20  > Government must not lower livelihood protection standards
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2007 November 14 - 20 [WELFARE]

Government must not lower livelihood protection standards

November 11, 2007
Akahata, editorial (excerpts)

With the aim of lowering the standards for livelihood protection, the Welfare Ministry has established a panel to review the standards. The panel will compile a report within this year, and the ministry plans to reflect its findings in the FY 2008 budget.

Livelihood protection is a state system to provide families with income levels below the minimum cost of living (the livelihood protection standards) with the assistance needed to meet the minimum cost of living.

The livelihood protection standards have been set by determining the consumption level of the average worker’s household. The panel, however, is considering changing to use the consumption level of the lowest income households the baseline.

The minimum cost of living is currently set at about 70 percent of the consumption level of the average worker’s household. Thus, those who receive livelihood protection benefits are already enduring harsh living conditions. They will have to further slash their expenses if the livelihood protection standards are lowered on the grounds of balancing the level of assistance with the consumption level of low income families.

The government has already implemented a series of cutbacks in the benefits of the livelihood protection program. It abolished the additional benefits for the elderly and reduced the additional benefits for mother-child households. As a result, many say that they have reduced the number of meals a day to two and that they cannot afford to buy decent clothes and an adequate amount of food for their children.

Lowering the livelihood protection standards as the government intends could deprive the beneficiaries of the right to the constitutionally guaranteed minimum standard of living.

It is said that 4.5 million to 6 million households, more than five times those receiving livelihood protection benefits, are living in “working poor” conditions, meaning that their income levels are below the livelihood protection standards. Lowering the minimum standards will exclude them from the welfare system. It is unacceptable for the government to remove the “safety net” for low income families by lowering the standards.

The panel must first discuss the level of “the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living” as guaranteed in the Constitution and whether the current level of benefits meets the standards.

The livelihood protection standards are also used as the standards for the government to determine the minimum wage and take various measures for low income households, including tax exemption and reductions in the national health insurance premiums. Lowering the livelihood protection standards, therefore, will have profound adverse effects on the living conditions of not only the people on welfare but also the public in general. - Akahata, November 11, 2007
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