TOKYO -- The Japanese government ultimately has no plans to support people pushed into poverty by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic beyond the welfare system, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga suggested to lawmakers on Jan. 27.
The Suga administration has come under fire for insufficient assistance for people who have been laid off, restaurants and other businesses, and workers suffering from severe income drops due to requests for shorter business hours due to the coronavirus crisis.
Suga's comment came after Michihiro Ishibashi, of the largest opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP), asked the prime minister during a House of Councillors Budget Committee session, "Are you telling people in dire economic straits (due to the pandemic) to just help themselves?"
Suga replied that he wanted to aim for a society of "self-help, mutual cooperation, public assistance, and community bonds." He added, "First of all, (people) should try whatever they can on their own. If that does not work at all, then the government will step in to help with the social safety net. That is the kind of trusted government I would like."
Ishibashi then asked, "There are more and more people now taking their own lives because they've lost their livelihoods. Is it (support) really reaching people in need?"
Suga stated, "There are various measures in place and, in the end, the government has the welfare system."
Later, CDP lawmaker Renho stood up and said, "That (the prime minister's) answer was beyond the pale." She then asked, "Is it not the job of the prime minister, and politics, to work to prevent people from falling into welfare?"
Suga responded, "In the end there's the safety net. And what I said was that I want to create a trust-based society."
(Japanese original by Hironori Takechi, Political News Department)