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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 February 14 - 20  > JCP Chair Shii urges government not to cut off lifelines for single parent families
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2007 February 14 - 20 TOP3 [WELFARE]

JCP Chair Shii urges government not to cut off lifelines for single parent families

February 14, 2007
Shii said to the prime minister, “I strongly urge the government to cancel the plans that will violate Article 25 of the Constitution guaranteeing the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living.”

At a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting on February 13, Japanese Communist Party Chair Shii Kazuo grilled Prime Minister Abe Shinzo on the issue of increasing poverty among Japanese children.

Warning that the increase in child poverty is not only reducing the children’s growth potential but also posing a risk of perpetuating poverty across generations, Shii said, “This is a crucial issue for the future of Japan.”

According to an OECD (Organization for Economic and Cultural Development) report which Shii referred to, 14.3 percent of children in Japan are in households earning less than half of the average income that are regarded as poor.

Shii also showed that among single parent families, children in households at or below the poverty line has reached 57.9 percent, nearly three times the OECD average.

In response Abe stated, “We must prevent Japan from becoming a nation in which reproduction of poverty takes place.”

Concerning the issue of child poverty, Shii questioned about the role of the national budget and the minimum wage system, the responsibility for which lies with the government.

He stated, “The national budget should be set to properly redistribute incomes through taxation and social welfare services.” However, he pointed out that in contrast to other OECD countries, Japan’s budget priorities have led to a 1.4 percent increase in the child poverty rate.

The JCP chair condemned the government plans to sharply reduce the child-support allowance granted to low-income single parent families, and to phase out extra benefits for single parent families receiving welfare benefits.

He said, “How heartless it is to cut the two vital ‘lifelines’ for single-parent families! I strongly urge the government to cancel the plans that will violate Article 25 of the Constitution guaranteeing the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living.”

Regarding the phased abolition of the extra benefits for single parent families, the prime minister said, “We must take into consideration the fairness between households receiving welfare benefits and those without them.”

Shii stated, “The true ‘fairness’ for the government is to not deprive hardworking single parent families of the extra benefits and to take measures to lift their living standards that are hardly above welfare benefit recipients’ levels despite their hard work.”

Pointing to Japan’s minimum wage, which is at the lowest level among the developed countries, as a major factor contributing to the increase in poverty, Shii stated, “The government should set a goal of raising the minimum wage to 50 percent of the workers’ average income in order to create a society in which the minimum wage system enables working people to stay above the poverty line.”

Abe stated, “Such a measure is likely to put pressure on small- and medium-sized businesses and reduce employment opportunities.”

Shii stated, “If you are really concerned about pressures on small- and medium-sized enterprises, what is needed is to prohibit large corporations from lawlessly bullying of their subcontractors. The government must drastically increase minimum wage and take measures to support small- and medium-sized enterprises at the same time.”

He stressed, “In order to resolve the problem of poverty and widening social disparities, we strongly call on the government to drastically raise the minimum wage and establish a nationwide single minimum wage system.”
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