Japan – a different stage in the welfare journey

The arguments about the welfare state are a bit different in Japan.

One key issue is whether or not relatives should bear responsibility for each other. This article in the Japan Times brings the row to life through the case of a rich person whose mother has been on benefits. In some other countries around the world, relatives bear legal responsibility. I imagine the idea would now shock people in Britain although 60 years ago it would not have done. That is a part of how the British way of thinking has changed.

It is fascinating to see a country at a different stage of the debate about welfare. The article is full of the view that welfare should be an entitlement and nothing to be ashamed of. By implication, there is some shame attached to it still in Japan. People who feel they are being kind, like the author of the article, are trying to change that. They have the kindly desire not to make people who are poor feel guilty about their problems.

Britain and America used to have editorial views like this. But now one in seven people in the USA is on food stamps. With so many people dependent on benefits, the ‘entitlement culture’ is regarded as a major problem. Maybe one day, when Japan has as much benefit dependency as the US and Britain, it will see things the same way.

For the time being, the benefit dependency is clearly a lot less:

According to the civic group, the percentage of people living on welfare is relatively small in Japan — 1.5 percent in fiscal 2010. That compares with 9.7 percent in Germany (2009), 9.3 percent in Britain (2010) and 5.7 percent in France (2010).

I don’t know how the ‘civic group’ defines ‘living on welfare’ but these figures, if they are right, suggest far lower levels of dependency.

  1. Japan has an old-fashioned contributions-based welfare system. It works pretty well but it is probably moving towards a worse model
  2. And some people think that the USA does not have a welfare state!
  3. Mass food insecurity in America
  4. The Tories get radical on welfare reform. Good.
  5. Reform of incapacity benefit – again
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One Response to Japan – a different stage in the welfare journey

  1. barry stevens says:

    A very interesting article, I spent a year teaching in Japan,and my experience of the Japanese is that they are caring, responsible and not given to dependence on handouts!! So it does surprise me to read that a rich Japanese individual would allow his mother to live on benefits? On the other hand living on benefits in the UK is regarded as virtue by far too many Brits,as you have pointed out in uyour excellent book, and the culture is practically handed down generation to generation!! And on the subject of teacher training, I would suggest that until the ethic of scholarship, which is commonplace in Japan, is adopted by students, teachers will always be mediocre by implication. You simply cannot purchase vocational skills, they are eithre there or they are not?

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