Written with extracts from The Mainichi
Febrauary 3 2021
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga made a remark during the Jan. 27 House of Councillors’ Budget Committee meeting. He had just been asked about the government’s assistance for people who were facing poverty as a result of the spread of the coronavirus, to which he responded, “In the end, the government has the welfare system.”
Article 1 of the Public Assistance Act states that one of its purposes is “to promote self-support.” In other words, the law is the first step toward self-reliance. But that is not how the law is being applied. Only 20% of people who are eligible for welfare actually receive it. Efforts at the local government level to prevent people from receiving it are ongoing. Because of administrative offices making inquiries to see if people have family members who can support them, those who do not want their families to know about their straitened circumstances or do not want to burden them are unable to even apply for welfare.
“The prime minister’s words sounded to me more like ‘Die if you don’t have money,’ passing over ‘We won’t help you until the very end.’ And it made me tear up,” a woman in her 30s in the western Japan city of Osaka said. Both she and her husband have disabilities, and live on welfare and disability pensions.