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2014 May 14 - 20 [CIVIL RIGHTS]

Growing number of municipalities invite people to inform on ‘unfair’ welfare recipients

May 18, 2014
An increasing number of local municipalities are encouraging their residents to inform upon “cheating” by welfare recipients ostensibly for an “appropriate” management of the public assistance program, raising public concern over an introduction to an informant society.

The Fukuoka City government in April set up a system of input from private citizens regarding suspicious recipients of welfare benefits or welfare users who are wasting their welfare benefits on alcohol or gambling. Japanese Communist Party assemblyperson Nakayama Ikumi in opposition to the system said, “It’s unreasonable to gather information based on conjecture and misassumptions.”

The Saitama City government late February asked its citizens to provide information on those who may illegally receive public livelihood subsidies in addition to needy persons. Contrary to the city’s intent, the residents responded with criticism against the creation of a mutual surveillance community. The JCP City Assembly Members’ Group demanded that information collection be limited only for the purpose of supporting people in need.

Other than the two municipalities above, one in Hokkaido, seven in Osaka, and two in Kyoto have opened hotlines to obtain information from private citizens.

Ono City in Hyogo has even enacted an ordinance to urge inhabitants to check if public assistance or childcare allowance users are not spending the money on gambling. Last year, four out of the ten calls the city received were about people who did not even receive any welfare benefits. The only JCP member in the city assembly, Fujiwara Akira demanded the abolishment of the ordinance by saying, “The number of complaints was small and 40% ended up being false reports. I feel this is just the beginning of a surveillance society.”

Meanwhile, JCP member of the House of Councilors Koike Akira has emphasized the need to increase the number of caseworkers, not the installation of hotlines for informants.

Lawyer Morikawa Kiyoshi, working to offer consultations on public assistance for needy people in areas around Tokyo, said that the move to establish those hotlines or such an ordinance is accelerating a negative image of public livelihood assistance and keeping people who are really in need from applying for daily life protection. The lawyer suspected that the so-called “appropriate” management of welfare programs aims at curtailing welfare expenses.

Past related article:
> Ordinance bill to ‘keep an eye on’ welfare recipients attracts popular criticism [March 2 & 5, 2013]
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