More and more often, elderly patients are making the news in Japan not for their longevity, but for their negative impact on the country’s welfare system. Angry politicans such as Aso have suggested that elderly Japanese should relinquish their rights, while others have called for reform to what they believe is an antiquated system.
So far, one solution that both sides have agreed upon is to raise the sales tax. However, research has shown that doubling the consumption sales tax will not be sufficient enough. Another solution has resulted in the fact that “welfare benefits will be slashed by ¥74 billion over a three-year period starting from fiscal 2013.” As expected, the second change ignited much more protest from the Japanese population, of which the elderly population makes up a huge portion of.
Overall, I do not agree with Aso that elderly people should not be eligible to receive welfare benefits. Also, I do not agree that the answer to the problem at hand lies in taking back benefits that have served the country well. Instead, I believe that the current welfare system can act as a good foundation for the Japanese government to improve upon. After all, past posts have revealed that the elderly Japanese are contributing members to society, and their ability to live longer than others should be awarded instead of apprehended.
According to Forbes Magazine writer Stephen Harner, the welfare system can and should be reformed. Harner argues that the answer is “to present the issue in terms of which model the people are willing to support.” In order to make the situation understandable to Japanese citizens, the government should educate citizens in simple terms what changes need to be made in order continue offering sufficient welfare benefits. The main idea that they should promote is that high welfare expenditures often lead to high tax burdens. However, they should also make people aware that paying into the system will benefit everyone, seeing as most anyone over 65 in Japan is eligible to receive welfare benefits. Given that the average life expectancy in Japan is 83.91 years, most people will be eligible to receive an average of 18.91 years of aid!
On top of making the general public aware that a moderate consumption tax increase is necessary, the Japanese government should also strive to make necessary changes. In fact, politicians should work towards making their debates more transparent so that they would have to become more responsible for their actions. According to Harner, “to date the political class has dishonestly offered society a high level of welfare expenditures while demurring from presenting the bill to pay for it; instead, taking the easy, expedient, and politically self-serving way out of issuing debt the burden of which will fall on future generations.”
Overall, I remain optimistic towards the future of Japan’s welfare system. Even though a decrease in welfare benefits spending has been approved, I believe this is only a minor setback to an otherwise historically generous country. For years, Japan’s welfare system has served its country well, and I believe that history serves as the best indicator of which systems work and which don’t. Also, given that the Japanese are culturally more inclined to revere the older generation, I believe Japanese citizens will be more willing to pay higher taxes just so their elderly people can keep on enjoying the benefits they have enjoyed for so many years. Nonetheless, politicians like Aso will continue to speak out against welfare spending on the elderly Japanese, but the huge volume of criticisms and backlash he has received goes only to show the Japanese people’s solidarity when it comes to supporting their elders.