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Japan: Starving in the Land of Plenty

The recent story of a man starving to death [Ja] as a result of not being able to receive welfare assistance, made famous thanks to his having documented his last days in a diary, sparked many Japanese bloggers to reflect on the broader implications of their country's welfare policy.

Blogger SkyTeam connects the death by starvation to policies of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party:

餓死した患者さんは肝臓病や糖尿病があったということですが、そういう病人さんの布団を剥ぐような真似をするのが「美しい日本」と「抵抗勢力と戦った」自民党政治の結果です。

The patient who starved to death had a liver ailment and diabetes. The imitation of actions like this one, in which a sick person is denied a bed, is a result of the Liberal Democratic Party's “Beautiful Japan” [policy] and [its drive to] “fight opposition forces”.

大半の方には生活保護などまったく関係ないと思われますが、この地区の生活保護世帯の生活保護の認定は厳しいと聞いております。きちんと大手マスコミも報道すべきでしょうが・・・新聞記事にもなりませんね。

It is thought that the majority of people have absolutely no connection with the welfare program, but I've heard that the process for being approved to receive public assistance in this region is extremely harsh. The mass media should properly cover this issue, but… there is nothing in the newspapers about it.

もちろん、生活保護を受けてながら、勝手気ままな生活を送っている方も中には見えます・・・でも、生活の糧を得るための最終手段を奪うのは行き過ぎのようにも思います。

Of course, there are people receiving welfare who live their life as they please… but taking away the last available means for people to receive their subsistence, this is going too far I think.

Blogger Sen, meanwhile, discusses the particularly harsh policy toward welfare assistance enacted by the local government in Kita Kyushu:

生活保護というのは、最後のセーフティネットではなかったのか?北九州市で、生活保護をなかば強制的に辞退させられたかたが、誰にも看取られること無く、亡くなっているのが発見された。

Isn't the welfare system the safety net of last resort? In Kita Kyuushuu, none of the people who were half-forced to withdraw from the welfare [program] were taken care of, and it was discovered that they were dying.

生活保護の申請は、国民、市民なら、誰でも申請できるはずのもの。がしかし、北九州市では、「北九州方式」と呼ばれる、生活保護申請をノルマを掲げて削減に取組んでいるというから、愕然とします。

In the case of Japanese nationals and citizens, welfare is something that anybody is eligible to apply for. However in Kita Kyushu, what is called the “Kita Kyushu style” is one which attempts to apply a quota reducing the number of applications for welfare assistance, and this shocks me.

Blogger Masami analyzes a report about local welfare policy in Kyushu, excerpting and commenting on key passages. One of these passages describes citizen participation in the drafting of budget decisions:

当然のことだが、この間の生活保護行政については、毎年、市議会の予算、決算の議決を受け、関係する常任委員会でも審議されてきた。「生活保護のありよう」は、市民の代表である議会から認められてきた。いいかえれば、市民の支持があったのである。

It is obvious perhaps, but regarding the recent welfare administration, every year, in the budget of the city council, decisions about accounting are received and are also discussed in the associated standing committee. “The existence of welfare assistance” has [as such] been approved by a parliament representing citizens. In other words, there was support from citizens [for this policy].

Masami observes that:

この「市民の支持があった」については、末尾(47ページから)に添付されているアンケートを見ても想像できた。不正受給に対する市民の怒りのようなものを感じた。

[The statement that] “there was support from citizens” is easy to imagine if you look at the survey attached at the end [of the report] (from page 47 on). [Reading this,] I sensed the anger of citizens regarding issues like the dishonest receipt [of welfare assistance].

Finally, blogger lastchristmas looks into the future and asks where the current policy will lead Japan in the future:

でも、これからどうなるのでしょうか・・。
ますますこのような状況になりそうな感じもします。
誰でも病気などで職を失う可能性はあるわけですから、生活の保障や身寄りがなければありえますよね。

But what will happen from here on?
I have the feeling that this kind of thing will happen more and more often.
Everybody is prone to getting sick and losing their job, so if people have no life security or family relatives, then this kind of thing can happen.

お金があっても生活保護の支給を受けている人もいるらしいですが、本当に必要な人の保護を打ち切るのはやめてほしいです。

There are apparently people who collect welfare assistance even though they have money, but even so they should not cut of the security [income] of people who really need it.

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