Japan: Pension cuts for foreigners rouses cries of discrimination
The Japan Pension Service wants to drop the pension premium waiver for foreigners who are on welfare, putting an end to the long-held practice of equal treatment.
On Tuesday, sources alleged that The Japan Pension Service, the government-linked body that runs the public pension systems, has drawn up a guideline to end the uniform premium waiver for foreigners on welfare.
In fiscal 2010, about 1.41 million households were on public assistance, including around 42,000 headed by foreign residents.
The Japan Pension Service said that "public assistance benefits are provided to foreigners living in poverty just like those provided to Japanese nationals, but foreigners are not actually covered by the law on public assistance”.
The national pension law currently states that the premium waiver applies to people who are on welfare benefits paid under the public assistance law or via a welfare ministry ordinance.
“The premium waiver is accorded only to those subject to the law on public assistance, and it is thus not applicable to foreigners," the organisation added.
The Japan Pension Service believes that foreign residents who have jobs but are on welfare due to low income should not qualify for the full waiver of premiums. They may have to pay some of the legally required premiums based on their income level.
Human rights activists have condemned the new guideline, calling the move the beginning of discrimination based on nationality.
"Foreign residents who won't be able to pay the premium could end up with no pension benefits in the future. The government should abolish the nationality clause in the public assistance law, and treat foreign residents the same as Japanese," said Shinichiro Nakashima, head of Kumustaka, a group based in the city of Kumamoto that supports foreign residents.
This said, the requirements for foreigners to receive public assistance and the amount of benefits they can receive are the same as what applies for Japanese nationals, because the system is geared to ensure the minimum standard of living.