A healthy economy affords almost everyone a livelihood. For those who fall through the cracks, there’s welfare relief. An unhealthy economy swells the welfare rolls. Japan’s current economy is extremely unhealthy. The welfare system is strained to the breaking point. “Strange world,” muses Shukan Shincho (March 3), referring to a recent spate of briskly-selling how-to books offering advice on milking welfare for all it’s worth and more. Why struggle? is the implied message. You can live pretty comfortably on welfare, if you know the ropes.
By 2005, the nation was some 15 years into its ongoing “lost decade,” and 1 million households were on welfare. By last November 1.42 million households were – 1.97 million individuals. Welfare payments in 2009 came to 3 trillion yen.
Osaka, says Shukan Shincho, is the national leader in this regard, with 148,000 welfare recipients among its citizens. That’s one-eighteenth of its population. The magazine speaks of long lines forming outside city hall on mornings when payments are issued. It also speaks of recipients hailing taxis when their business is done, pachinko parlors being popular destinations.
The how-to manuals strike both a chord and a nerve – a chord among those seeking to extend their privileges, a nerve among the outraged. Shukan Shincho is in the latter camp. “It won’t be long,” it concludes, “before the system goes bankrupt.”
The manuals are replete with “Q&A” presentations that walk you step by step through the daunting and aggravating process of dealing with the welfare bureaucracy.
Q: The case worker tells me, rather forcefully, to do some job-hunting at [job placement agency] Hello Work. How should I respond?
A: Guidance concerning job-seeking must respect the welfare recipient’s freedom.
Q: Somehow I always end up playing pachinko...
A: As long as you don’t play more frequently than an employed person might, I don’t see a problem.
And so on. There are times when a medical certificate comes in handy, and not all doctors are pushovers. Don’t worry. With a little coaching, you can wrap them all round your little finger. “When you visit a doctor,” says one manual quoted by Shukan Shincho, “let him know clearly how ill you are, even if it means exaggerating. Make sure he understands that if you end up on the street without a yen, it’s his fault... The doctor may give you a dirty look, but you can live with that.”
If, whether through your own fault or because of the sagging economy, you really are unemployable, your case worker will look for relatives who might support you, asking for names and addresses. The most effective response in that event is, “I don’t know, I forget, I’ve lost track of my family.”
Put up a sufficiently bold front, in short, and the world is your oyster.© Japan Today