The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) headed by Prime Minister Abe Shinzo made pledges during the last election campaign ? ‘a big change will be made in social service funding to cover all generations by using revenue from the consumption taxes’. But in fact the policy remains similar to that which was raised before by the premier’s advisory body, the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy. The new proposal is not new though the LDP defines it as ‘better social services for all the generations’.
Child Care Assistance ? Not enough
The LDP claims a free child care service. But it is only an alternative to the Child Insurance System presented by a young LDP member, Koizumi Shinjiro. The party plans to implement it from the Fiscal 2020 when the consumption tax rate will have risen to 10%.
The free child care plan includes: (1) free-of-charge tuitions of nursery schools and kindergarten for all children from 3 to 5 year-old and (2) full child care benefits for children of 0-2 year-old of low-income families. Nursery fee is more costly for children of 0-2 year-old. No reference has been made to a hike in the child-care benefit provided to every child and those grants paid to single-parent families. The LDP insists to cut off a vicious circle of poverty. What will be done for the purpose?
As for a problem of children waiting for nursery care, the LDP estimates to accommodate up to 320 thousand children by the Fiscal 2020. But as far as the current project is concerned, which is to help 400 thousand children by the Fiscal 2017, the target has not yet been accomplished. The plan covers not only public day-care centers but also private ones and company-managed nurseries whose levels are inferior in terms of facility and personnel.
Besides child care, the LDP election pledges say: ‘free-of-charge higher education will be guaranteed for students from low-income families in need. More scholarships will be given to support their life and more students will enjoy exemption of tuition fee payment.’
Phrases are beautiful: ‘children will play an important role in the future’, ‘a revolution will go to train people’ and etc. But substance is poor.
Necessary measures are: free lunch at schools, not only a decrease but a big reduction in tuition fees at colleges and universities, abolition of loan-type scholarships that accompany interest payments and expansion of interest-free scholarships. The Abe government is not ready to improve the educational institutions although it claims ‘children will play an important role in the future’.
People have No Merits
The LDP manifesto says; ‘both of the elderly and the youth can lead a safe and secured life and serve/work actively in the society. All the generations in the society will enjoy public services’. But measures are not concretely given. It is, evidently, implausible for the Abe government to specify them.
It imposes heavier burden on the elderly: to decrease pensions by way of the enhanced macro-economic slide scheme and curb budgets for healthcare to halt natural grow of expenses (one trillion Yen is necessary, but the government attempts to keep the level below 500 billion Yen). It is not willing to create a minimum pension program, but just plans to pay 5,000 Yen a month for low-income pensioners when the consumption tax rate surges.
The manifesto alarms about a crisis of the era of aging population with low birthrate. But it does not refer to responsibility of the government and the financial sector. Labor-related laws have been undermined by the joint efforts of government and business, which obliges workers employed on the regular basis to work harder and longer. Thus they suffer from psychological diseases and sometimes commit suicide.
On the other hand, however, many young graduates are employed on the irregular basis as they were hired when the economy sank downward. A tax reduction scheme with subsidy should be introduced to help young incumbent workers.
The Abe government will not put social welfare rightly into practice. United struggles of civic movements and opposition parties are crucially needed to overcome poverty and inequality.
November 7, 2017