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Family branded welfare cheats because daughter gets part-time job

41 Comments

You’d think a local government would praise and encourage a girl like this. Instead, Kawasaki City branded her and her family welfare cheats. The family resisted. The case wound up in court. Surprise – Kawasaki City lost.

Shukan Josei (April 21) tells the story. In 2010, the girl (we’ll call her Maki) was a 15-year-old 2nd-year senior high school student in Kawasaki. Her father had been an electrician but heart trouble forced him out of work in 2005. Her mother, an office worker, became the sole family breadwinner. It proved too much for her. Unable to cope, she succumbed to depression and in 2008, she too quit work. In April 2010, the family, its savings exhausted, went on welfare.

Six months later, Maki’s class drew up plans for a school trip. She wanted to go. But school trips are expensive. This one would cost 98,000 yen. If her family could spare that kind of money, it wouldn’t be on welfare. What was she to do?

She had an answer. She would find a part-time job. Which she did. Working as a drugstore cashier, she earned the necessary sum and more, and went on the trip. And having accepted that any higher education she’d have a chance of acquiring would depend on her own efforts, she kept on working, building up a college fund.

Kawasaki City’s response, when it found out, was prompt. Welfare families must report all earned income, so that it may be deducted from welfare payments, which are issued on the assumption that the family has no income. Maki hadn’t reported hers, and would have to return it. The amount involved was 325,986 yen. When the family balked, the city took it to court.

“Maybe it’s shameful to be on welfare,” Maki’s father tells Shukan Josei. “It’s certainly not something I’m proud of. But I am happy to see Maki developing into the sort of person who can stand on her own two feet… She knows we’re poor. She’s never asked for anything for herself, never got an allowance.”

Besides, the father insists, it’s not strictly true that her earnings were not reported. Far from concealing the fact, he says, he mentioned it with pride to the welfare case worker. Whatever reporting he was required to do beyond that he did not know about; the case worker, he says, should have told him. The case worker riposted that the requirements were written up in the pamphlets welfare recipients are supposed to read.

For two and a half years, the Yokohama District Court heard arguments back and forth, ruling finally in March this year that Maki’s determined pursuit of education was admirable and the city’s proceedings against her were “cruel.” The city has decided not to appeal, confining itself to a commitment to explain the rules more fully to recipient families in future. In the city’s defense, it can be said that the problem of welfare cheating is a wide one – in 2013, the welfare ministry said it dealt with 43,230 allegations of unreported earnings by welfare recipients.

As for Maki, she’s now 19 and a 4th-year university student, busy job-hunting.

© Japan Today

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41 Comments
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Very Kakfa-esque. I hope her and her family find relief.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

For these people who are that upset over 4th year of uni at 19. If you use what is between your ears you will realise that it a typo error!!! It should read 1st. Isn,t the number 4 bad number in Japanese society.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

This isn't new. My mother saw an example in the 1950s. Back then in the USA, it was called Aid for Needy Children or ANC. The mother couldn't afford to buy a jacket for her son. Mom asked "Why doesn't he get a paper route to earn enough for the jacket?" The lady cried. It turned out that every dime he made would reduce the stipend meaning he would work for nothing. It's a trap.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

How nice to know that welfare systems all over the world do their best to make it absolutely impossible to get ahead and get off welfare.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I am baffled as to why the income of a school age person would even be considered in the welfare equation. Whoever came up with that brilliant idea must have wanted families on welfare to stay on welfare forever. Nope. Restricting school age people and saddling them the financial burdens of their unemployed parents makes no sense whatsoever, not for the future and not even for today.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Awesome! I'm sure she is helping her family out as well as getting that education she desires.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Bravo...

3 ( +3 / -0 )

In 2010, the girl was a 15-year-old 2nd-year senior high school student "As for Maki, she is now 19"

JapanGal you are right , thumbs up

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I wonder how much it cost Kawasaki taxpayers for the city to press their case?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

if you fall on hard times and cant work, nobody should feel guilty of going on welfare. thats what its there for. if i had to go on welfare for any reason I certainly wouldnt feel guilty about it. Ive paid more than my fair share of frigin taxes over the years!

3 ( +4 / -1 )

A great story and yes the father should be proud. You go girl.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@Connor

"people can get upwards of 60k a year...."

Given that the Tory benefit cap is set at five hundred quid per family a week, that's highly unlikely. Do the maths...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Wow, how this made it to court let alone how it took that long to finally see a proper ruling is beyond me. If she was buying Gucci bags and expensive make up with the earnings I could understand. But she was using it for her education, if you want to see a real benefits cheat I'll show you the UK where people can get upwards of £60k a year if they have so many children.

That's equates to roughly Y10.7m or $89.6k and we're not just talking one or two there's a few hundred getting away with that level payout and a lot of them haven't worked a day in their lives with children who'll never do a days work yet have designer clothes, iphones and huge tv's. That's what I'd call a benefits cheat, not a family who have worked hard but been forced to accept welfare due to health issues with a child trying to ensure a better future for herself and therefore more tax yen for the Government, a businessman would have called this an investment for the future. Utterly ridiculous.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

So she is a "minor" which means she should have zero responsibility as an adult to support the family. If her parents don't work and her salary is expected to be what replaces welfare money, change the minor law from 20 to under 18.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Employment by youths should never be considered part of the family income, even if they do help parents on occasion. It should be encouraged to help with school and such event expenses, also for clothes, etc. I worked whenever I had the opportunity in high school and mostly used it for reasonable school expenses like my school sweater (a US custom), graduation ring, and event expenses or occasional food contributions for at home. I worked steadily since I was 17 and part time like delivering newspapers since I was 13. Many of these type jobs are no longer available for children/teens.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Why the negative title to this story? "Family Absolved of being Welfare Cheats," seems to be more appropriate.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Wait, everything you earn has to be reported and deducted from welfare? Not what I would call an incentive to start working again. At least in some other countries you have a buffer amount that you can add to your welfare through part time jobs. Also, way to try and ruin a young persons start in life. Guess they wanted to teach her that individuals don't matter and life is hard. But Japan is notorios for keeping poor youths poor.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

In 2010, the girl (we’ll call her Maki) was a 15-year-old 2nd-year senior high school student in Kawasaki.

This puts her at either 19 or 20 this year. I'm guessing "4th year" should have actually read "1st year".

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Well spotted, Yubaru! You should work for Kawasaki City, or maybe you do. Who cares how old she is! Good on her for her initiative. Her parents must be proud.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Good on this young woman, and good on the courts for calling this what it is -- people using the system when in need to stay on their feet, and in the daughter's case, to make a life for herself. Imagine if she could not have had the job because it would have meant forfeiting money the family needed! Would that have decreased the 'burden' on the city? Would it have made the people happy and healthy mentally and physically? If and when the family gets back on their feet to the point that they no longer need the assistance, I'm sure they would get off of it and be extremely thankful for having it when necessary. That is the DEFINITION of welfare! "Cheating" would be if the parents COULD work but chose not to because they liked the welfare money, etc.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

while her working is admirable, why don't her parents? the girl is probably working in a convenience store or something like that, why can't they? i suppose if i was getting money for not working, why bother?

Fds, her father has health problems and can't work so her mother tried and succumbed to depression. And before anyone comes back with, "Depression? Work depresses me, too, but I still do it," this is a serious mental illness that can render a person incapable of even simple tasks on some days. So, in short, both her parents did work until they were unable to and were then forced to go on public assistance. This happens to a lot of people on welfare, contrary to the "I wouldn't bother if I were getting money for not working, either" stereotype.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I'm also curious as to the courts decision. Is it that the girl was a minor and in full time education and her parents were out of work? Which makes sense and shows the injustice of penalising the parents. Never been on welfare in Japan but surely payments are calculated on the individual that requires them not on the family as a whole. After all taxes are taken on an individual's earnings.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I agree with the posters here; good for her! But, unfortunately, many Japanese companies will not want her. Maki will have to hide the fact that she can think for herself and think outside the box. Japanese companies want drones, who follow orders and don’t challenge the status quo. In a word, they want; robots.

These kind of upside down rules are why many kids (and adults) live in poverty and have limited educational opportunities.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

while her working is admirable, why don't her parents? the girl is probably working in a convenience store or something like that, why can't they? i suppose if i was getting money for not working, why bother?

also, i curious about the basis for the court's decision. i certainly hope the court didn't arbitrarily decide not to enforce the law. it would be unfair to all those people who decide not to work cause it would reduce their welfare payout.

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

Well done young girl! That should teach a lesson to the Kawasaki authorities. I have a case against them too. I am preparing to teach them a lesson too. The Kawasaki authorities told me that they don't care about the circumstances and demanded I pay their dues. It was my savings from my hard work towards my mother's surgery. And they did not want to check on my employer who did not pay my health insurance. And my employer had reported that they were paying some amount on my behalf for cleaning or some nonsense.

Basically, the system does not have control measures on the employer to protect the employees. I am sure the parents of the girl were exploited thus they lost their ability to work. My physician was nice and was willing to report the employer for exploiting me. Well, I am recovering from my health condition. And as soon as I have regained my health, I hope to take this matter up with the authorities.

If any of you have experienced this, especially from the Kawasaki authorities please share. Tks.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

"the welfare ministry said it dealt with 43,230 allegations of unreported earnings by welfare recipients" - article

Kawasaki, Japan, population 1.44 million (2012). How many of the 43,230 were similar to 'Maki' and her family? Cruel? There's another word for it.

The family has suffered enough, but no one, in thirty months of review, could see that? Why do so many people jump from high buildings?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

For two and a half years, the Yokohama District Court heard arguments back and forth, ruling finally in March this year that Maki’s determined pursuit of education was admirable and the city’s proceedings against her were “cruel.”

Two and a half friggin' YEARS?! THAT is cruel.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

@ReformedBasher

You said welfare is supposed to help not hinder but we live in Japan where they major in the minor and minor in the major

Spare me from a) how difficult your life is, b) how terrible Japan is, and c) your political ranting.

Thanks and have a nice day.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

Big politicians steal in subtle ways not by ten thousand yen but ten million or even billions of yen. When government land becomes available, the easiest way for them to scam is by developing the land right away with any kinds of projects. That way construction companies owned by friends, families or cronies, can be awarded the contracts. Later own they can pay them favors back. That is why you hear all those corruption cases all the time.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@ReformedBasher

You said welfare is supposed to help not hinder but we live in Japan where they major in the minor and minor in the major.

Some time ago I went to my local ward office to put this wonderful sentence together, "My health insurance fees are killing me!" I had dropped 30kgs in a matter of months cause we couldn't afford food because of our health insurance payments.

So it doesn't surprise me that the bureaucrats are hard at work putting their feet on people's faces. What's really surprising in this case is that they won in a Yokohama Court. That's the only thing surprising to me about this story.

The pursuit of happiness is more than difficult during Shinzo Abe's administration. He is clearly a bottom-feeder and a coward to not TAX the rich.

5 ( +10 / -5 )

The age thing is probably a typo. The important thing is, here's a girl who showed grit and determination, who showed what you would hope would be recognized as cultural or societal virtues who should have been praised and presented as a positive example, rather than have her family go through all this legal nonsense. We have rules for a reason, but there's a such thing as the "spirit of the law" versus the "letter of the law." Treating people like this does nothing to encourage them to strive to get off the welfare rolls. Good for Maki and good for her family, good for the court for finally siding with them and good for the city for deciding, after all this brouhaha, to do the right thing at last and not appeal.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

21 the youngest she should be, not 19 unless she skipped HS and should be on her way to Med School.

Even if she skipped HS she would not be able to take the "daiken" (GED) test until she was the same age as he peers who would be graduating HS. I agree, the youngest she could possibly be is 21.

It's not her age that matters really, it's her accomplishments and if I were a company owner I think I would hire her sight unseen!

2 ( +5 / -3 )

For all the deserved dirt that is thrown at the court system in Japan, it is good to read that sometimes there are judges willing to issue wise council.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Good for her and I hope she keeps that attitude through life. As far as the city is concerned, they need to learn how to be able to distinguish between a cheat and a person trying to get back on their feet. If anything, they should be encouraging this type of effort.

I could see the city's case if it were the parents who were actually working full time and bringing in more than they would be getting in welfare. But this was a kid that was doing part time work, hardly an amount that would be able to support a family of three with all expenses.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I think part of the problem is that there are always 100 unwritten exceptions to every written rule in Japan.

I can understand why Kawasaki city did what they did. The law seems pretty clear that people who are working are not entitled to recieve welfare. How were they supposes to know that it would be illegal to enforce the law in this situation just because someone thought it would be 'cruel' and her aims were 'admirable'? What people should be demanding is an official change in the law to exempt income used for educational purposes, not just a random exception given by the courts here and there for people who have the time and resources to press their cases.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

21 the youngest she should be, not 19 unless she skipped HS and should be on her way to Med School.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

There's a difference between welfare cheats (who are usually long term) and people trying to get back on their feet or improve their quality of life.

Welfare is supposed to help, not hinder.

If the daughter didn't work, the same amount of welfare would still be paid. Also, it's not her fault the family is in dire straits. The fact that she is doing something to improve her own situation should be applauded.

If she what she earns does reach enough for the family to live on, and she still lives with her parents, then the case should be reviewed. But like I said, don't penalize people trying to escape poverty.

Apart from the monetary concerns, incentive to get off welfare is dashed.

16 ( +17 / -1 )

Excellent! Japan needs a lot more Makis! Hey, my company would hire her in a heartbeat!

11 ( +11 / -0 )

As for Maki, she’s now 19 and a 4th-year university student, busy job-hunting.

How is this possible? She obviously has had a Japanese public school education, which means she graduated from HS at 18 years old, (17 maybe if her birthday falls after the typical early March or February graduations) gets into university where she would be more than likely a 2nd year student at 19 years old.

No need to over exaggerate about her accomplishments, she deserves all the respect for what she has done without aggrandizing it.

(There is no skipping grades in Japanese schools for those that are thinking about that....)

6 ( +11 / -5 )

Excellent young woman soon to enter the workforce. Don't they want people like this?

18 ( +18 / -0 )

Good for her! And a 4th year student at 19 while working, Bravo!

23 ( +24 / -1 )

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