In spite of price hike due to the so-called Abenomics policy and the recent hike of 8% in the consumption tax the government implements measures to reduce the Life Protection benefits, a social service provided to low-income families. The government has compiled a draft budget of the Fiscal 2015 to implement a third round of decrease of the benefits. The New Socialist Party demands that the policy should be withdrawn and the criteria for benefits should be raised.
PRICES GO UP ? LIFE PROTECTION BENEFITS MUST BE RAISED
The government decided last year to make a big budget cut by 67 billion Yen in total for the benefits of Life Protection service. Reductions are made consecutively three times by 6.7% on the average (maximum 10%) and were made twice in August 2013 and April this year. The government this time will reduce ‘housing benefit’ and additional ‘winter-season allowance’ for heating.
The government explains, referring to the Basic Policy Package 2014’: ‘the criteria of housing benefits and winter-season allowances should be examined minutely in order to be in equilibrium with those of similar households in the respective regions in light of the actual economic situation. Necessary steps will be taken for the Fiscal 2015 pursuant to conclusions’.
As for housing, a full amount is paid to a recipient by the central and municipal governments. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare specifies an upper limit of housing benefit for each prefecture and each designated city. The government claims that these limits exceed the level of low-income families and insists on reductions.
A low-income household means a family whose annual income is less than 3 million Yen. The ministry claims that the limits of benefit are higher by 20% than the average rents of these families and therefore demands to get down the official payments to be equal. Could the government guarantee the constitutional right of people to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultural living?
Government Compares Average with Upper Limit
A civic group, the Council to Deal With Life Protection Problems, which was set up in 2007 to support people in need, criticizes in the Letter of Demands presented to the ministry that: ‘the average rent of low income households is a result of calculations, but a housing benefit is set by the ministry as an upper limit. Comparison cannot be made properly’. The council demands cancellation of the policy.
The said letter emphasizes that it is necessary to study actual situations
of rents for houses that meet ‘the minimum standard of living area’ specified
by the government as ‘the necessary space in order to lead a healthy and
cultured life’. The Ministry must link the results with the benefits.
Let’s look at the housing situation in the Tokyo area. In total 230 thousand recipient families live in the 23 Wards of Tokyo. The ministry sets the highest upper limits in the country. For a household of a single person the amount is 53,700 Yen, for two-to-six-person household it is 69,800 Yen and for over 7 people it is 83,800 Yen. A recipient must find an affordable house.
An official of the Life Protection Section of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government says; ‘the limits are not high. Decent houses are not abundant in the Tokyo’s central area. Some people must leave the place familiar to them’ (from a column of the Tokyo Shimbun Newspaper dated October 13).
The Letter points out a recent hike of the electricity rate, which is by 6.4%-8.1%, referring to the winter-season benefits. For Hokkaido, in particular, the government approved to surge by 12.43% from November and by 15.33% from next April. A benefit reduction will hit recipients living in the cold region. It means a life or a death. If the government implements the policy, the majority of them, who are the elderly and physically-impaired people, will be threatened.
November 18, 2014