What Has Been the "Fairness" of Public Assistance?

published: 2017-10-06 Japanese:日本語版へ

Gathering of Anti-Poverty Network KyotoI have been conducting research on the public assistance system in Japan from the sociological perspective. In particular, I have been interested in the "fairness" policy in public assistance. What the fairness in public assistance literary means making both providing public assistance for those who do not need the social support, and not providing public assistance for those who need the social support fair. The "fairness" in this context means the general term for the policy which mainly focuses on prevention of proving public assistance for those who do not need the social support. To be more concrete, it means enhancement of vocational guidance, emphasis of the obligation of support, and measures against fraudulent receipt etc. Since the "fairness" policy has raised issues of withering application for public assistance and decreasing the protection rate, it has been one of the most important points in research on public assistance.

When considering the "fairness" policy of public assistance, what I have focused on is the operation of the Public Assistance Act and media reports that have an effect on such operation. The public assistance system is ordained by the Public Assistance Act. And the actual operation of the Act is specified by notification of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. This notification is the basic material to know about the operation of public assistance. Moreover, the operation of public assistance at local governments and welfare offices is important, too. There are four reasons for this – (1) what is specified in the notification of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare sometimes becomes concrete policies which are implemented by local governments; (2) some local government's own policies which are implemented can become the model cases; (3) policies which vary from the act and notification are implemented in some cases; and (4) the way of operation at an individual welfare office is sometimes conducted in some form which does not appear in the notification.

Presentation at 34th National Gathering for Community / Gathering Place 2017 in KyotoThen, what kinds of surveys can be done to conduct research on such operation of public assistance? Firstly, concerning the notification of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, since a book called Public Assistance Notebook is published every year, it is possible to examine the transition of operation rules of public assistance historically. Secondly, concerning the operation at local governments and welfare offices, there are various surveys that can be used, such as questionnaire surveys to local governments and welfare offices and interview surveys to users and case workers. What I adopted was the survey through the official information disclosure system. At first, since I did not know what materials exist in local governments, I requested the disclosure of official documents, using vague expressions such as "all materials concerning the fairness of public assistance from fiscal year 2008 to 2015." Although the expression I used in the request was vague, there was a response from the section in charge. And after listening to the advice about the detailed materials from the staff at the section in charge, I determined which official documents I request to disclose. I have learned such survey methods from activities the movement groups have conducted.

Heretofore, I have focused on what administrative documents to acquire in order to investigate the operation of public assistance. What I consider important is the survey about the media reports which can have an effect on the public assistance system as well as the survey about the operation of such public assistance system.

In particular, reports about fraudulent receipt of public assistance have brought some transformation to public assistance system. Some of the reports are called "public assistance bashing" which provide wrong information based on prejudices. What is still fresh in our memories is probably the report about a comedian. Concerning this case, his mother had no problem under the Public Assistance Act. However, the public assistance bashing arose as a result of the report by a weekly magazine in April 2012 and the Public Assistance Act was revised in 2013. Bashing reports, which focuses on a certain outstanding case and blame it, becomes a statement which views users or the system much more negatively, and the statement becomes a source which navigates the way of the public assistance system. What is important here is the situation that transformation of the system ("fairness") follows the bashing reports repeats in the history of public assistance to no small extent ( in 1980s the yakuza became such object of criticism and the notification of what we call "No.123" was provided). I think that it is necessary to focus on the relationship between the policy of "fairness" and media reports in order to clarify the process of the transformation of the system.


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