"Malicious Foreign Welfare Recipients Increasing Rapidly" screams the yellow and red headline emblazoned across the front page of Yukan Fuji (May 25). The accompanying banner, in inverse white characters on a red background, reads "meticulous investigation."
"If there's a way to receive something, I can't understand why you don't accept it. How stupid can Japanese be?" chuckles Mr A, a 26-year-old man who lives somewhere in the Kanto area. The son of parents from an unnamed southeast Asian country -- making A the second generation to live in Japan -- he works as a regular staff member of a manufacturing company.
A's newly purchased car, a Japanese model, cost 3 million yen. He can afford such goodies because he, his wife and their three children receive extra "pocket money" from the government.
"My wife began receiving welfare payments from last year," he tells the tabloid. "Including child support and other subsidies, she gets 200,000 yen per month. When combined with my take-home pay, we get over 500,000 yen per month, or about 6 million yen per year. "
In the past, recipients of welfare had been limited, by law, to "Individuals whose income from work is insufficient to meet necessary living costs," and by virtue of this, A should not be eligible. So how does he get away with it?
"Easy," he says. "I divorced my wife." And he did, on paper anyway. They still live together, so it's what one might call a divorce of convenience.
"My ex-wife went to the city office and claimed she lacked 'sufficient income to care for the children,' and she was promptly judged eligible and began receiving welfare payments," A confesses.
Should the authorities send a case worker to investigate, they would find the wife residing in a separate apartment, which she rents. But actually she continues to live together with her "former" husband.
"Once a month, a case worker will pay a visit, but since notification is always made in advance, all my wife has to do is take the kids over to the rental apartment ahead of time," he says.
Mr A tells Yukan Fuji that nearly all the inhabitants of the public housing development where he lives are foreigners.
"There are some Chinese and Indians, but people from my country are the most numerous, more than 300. Most of them are receiving welfare," he says.
Yukan Fuji remarks that indeed there may be foreigners whose difficult situation warrants welfare, but in the case of Mr A, we're looking at flat-out fraud.
According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, as of February 2012, 73,995 foreign nationals were receiving welfare payments -- more than double the figure of 2000, when the average for foreign recipients in any given month was 32,858 recipients.
An official at the health ministry told the reporter that foreigners deemed eligible to receive such payments include "Permanent residents and residents who are preparing for permanent status, those with officially recognized refugee status and those with Japanese spouses."
"There's no doubt that the number of foreigners taking advantage of flaws in the system has been increasing," says Professor Ryu Michinaka of Kansai University of International Studies. "Some take the form of spurious divorces or falsified documentation. Even in cases when the government offices suspect something illegal is going on, they'll invoke the 'language barrier' and just pretend they don't understand."
The foreign welfare chiselers also share the tricks of the trade with their compatriots, and parents also give advice to their children, creating next-generation social parasites.
"There aren't enough case workers to check out the applicants," adds Michinaka. "One case worker might have to cover 80 families, or sometimes even twice that number. Ironically, the total incomes for some of the families might be more than the caseworker earns in salary."
Japan needs to put its collective foot down and put an end this "haven" that makes it so easy for unscrupulous foreigners to feed at the public's expense, the article concludes.© Japan Today