Social security policy should leave no one behind

The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)-led administration has called for a “shift from concrete to people” — spending taxpayers’ money on people’s livelihoods, rather than public works projects. This is reflected in the fiscal 2010 budget draft, but it suggests that the government desperately secured financial resources to carry out its election campaign pledges, rather than show a clear vision on how Japan should be reformed. What will threaten people’s livelihoods are problems with medical and nursing care services in the short term, and raising children in the longer term.

Japan’s failure to find a way out of the child-care, medical and nursing-care crises is attributable largely to Japan’s traditional social security philosophy, in which fathers are the traditional breadwinners, and insurance and pension programs at the companies they work for support their entire families’ livelihood. In other words, Japanese people tend to believe that families should be responsible for raising children and nursing care, and that the national government should supplement such practices only in exceptional cases, such as those in which the fathers have lost their jobs or fallen ill.

However, single-parent families and households comprised of only elderly members are common now, while a growing number of people do not marry, forcing traditional family values to adapt.

Moreover, part-time and temporary workers now account for one-third of the entire workforce. If the government continues to address problems involving the outdated system only with deficit-covering bonds and reserve funds, taxpayers will be forced to pay for that in the end. The social security and employment systems should be reformed in response to changes in family values and Japan’s society.