The most commented-on article posted on the Yahoo! Japan News portal yesterday came from the Japanese edition of a Korean newspaper, the JoongAng Ilbo.
The article covers a landmark ruling by the Japanese Supreme Court which states that permanent foreign residents have no legal right to social security payments, although they can be awarded these payments based on the discretion of local authorities. The judgement comes after an ethnically Chinese woman in her 80s, who was born, raised, and worked for her entire life in Japan, tried to sue her local government over the issue.
Netizens have responded in their droves to the article. The most upvoted comments show some concern for the position of those foreigners resident in Japan who have not naturalised, but there were also large numbers of comments that follow right-wing logic, suggesting that these foreigners “go back to where they came from”. Which ironically is, in most cases, Japan.
Japan Supreme Court: “Foreigners Are Not Citizens Who We Protect”
Can foreigners resident in Japan receive social security legally intended for Japanese citizens? A final judgement has been handed down, that puts an end to a debate that has been drawn out for more than four years. The conclusion was that: “Since foreigners are not Japanese citizens, they have no legal right to social security payments.
On July 18, the Japanese Supreme Court judged that “Foreigners are not included in the category of ‘citizen’, which is the object of legal protection” in a trial that questioned whether or not foreigners were entitled to social security payments under Japanese law if they were living in poverty. Foreigners can receive social security payments based on the discretion of autonomous local governments; however, these cannot be guaranteed under Japanese law.
In an appeal hearing in which a woman in her 80s with Chinese nationality but permanent resident status in Japan was suing Oita City for having denied her application for social security payments based on the Livelihood Protection Law, Judge Chiba Katsumi of the second petty bench of the Japanese Supreme Court found against the plaintiffs, because “Foreigners in effect receive social security according to the discretion of the local government; no legal reform that expands the object of protection in Japan has been carried out”.
In 2011, the Fukuoka High Court overturned a first judgement by the Oita District Court in 2010, accepting the claims by the Chinese woman, saying “The position that foreign permanent residents can also receive social security is legally protected”, which has now been overturned once more. The plaintiff’s legal representatives say that the Chinese woman who is the plaintiff in the case had been born and raised in Japan, worked for her whole life in Japan, and cannot even speak Chinese. They could not accept the judgment, insisting that “Apart from her nationality, there is nothing to distinguish this woman from someone who is Japanese”.
Even within Japan, there is no shortage of criticisms and anxieties regarding this judgement. While the Abe Cabinet revealed that as part of their third growth strategy announced last month that they would expand the number of foreign laborers in Japan as a means of resolving the issue of the labor shortages that accompany the low birthrate and aging population, the Supreme Court has handed down a judgement that does not acknowledge any social safety-net for foreigners. NHK reported that “From now on, foreigners will no longer come to Japan to try to work, so some form of legal revision to ensure social security for foreigners is necessary”.
In an article dated July 19, the Sankei Shimbun reported that the recent judgement would have no immediate effect on social security for foreigners in Japan, but that it would put pressure on the financial resources of local authorities. At present, a considerable number of Japan’s local authorities are providing social security payments at a basic level to foreign permanent residents and foreigners who are deemed to be refugees. However, as the economy continues to dwindle and the number of foreign recipients of social security increases due to the rapidly aging population, there will be pressure on financial resources.
According to a 2012 survey by the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, the total number of recipients of social security payments is 1,550,000 households, and of these around 45,600 households — which is amounts to 3% of the total — are foreigners. Compared with ten years ago, the rate of increase of foreign recipients in comparison with the total number of recipients is 1.8 times higher. Looking at the breakdown of foreign welfare recipients by country, then in July 2011, the biggest groups was those who had Korean or North Korean nationality, with 28,700 households receiving social security, followed by 4,900 Filipino households and 4,400 Chinese households. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said: “Support for a basic standard of living is necessary; however, due to the burden on resources for local authorities, we do not welcome any increase in the number of foreign recipients of social security”.
Comments from Yahoo! Japan:
[Most upvoted first]
Korea is Japan’s elder brother.
This judgement is truly horrible.
Even if you’ve lived in Japan for a long time, paid your taxes properly, you get discriminated against just because you’re a “foreigner”…
I never thought Japan was such a horrible country.
As a single Japanese citizen, I really really apologise to all the foreigners in Japan.
Why is the discrimination toward zainichi here so awful?
Of course, I suppose some of them are bad people, but has anyone actually had anything done to them by a zainichi directly?
As a Japanese person, it’s shameful.
This is not directly related to this news, but I took the liberty of leaving this comment because these days there are so many discriminatory remarks.
If you don’t like it, go back to your fatherland.
Don’t give our hard-earned tax to those who don’t bother naturalising and just throw their weight around.
They should abolish provision of welfare to zainichi South Koreans and North Koreans who don’t have Japanese nationality.
If they can’t survive in Japan, then they should go back to their native country.
Way too many Koreans on welfare!
This situation where they give welfare to zainichi Koreans who have nested in Japan, but don’t give it to Japanese people who are completely poverty-stricken and on the verge of starvation….They talk about human rights, but isn’t it just reasonable that they prioritize people with Japanese nationality?
“Even within Japan, there is no shortage of criticisms and anxieties regarding this judgement.”
In Shin Okubo?
In Tsuruhashi? [Korean areas in Tokyo and Osaka respectively]
Cast out all the ZAINICHI sitting around in Japan and don’t take them back. Korea has no right to complain.
Poverty-stricken zainichi Koreans should go to the South Korean embassy in Japan or to the consulate (and not to the service window of their local council office).
Japan is not a multi-ethnic country, and nor should it be.
What this means is that if you want to be treated as a Japanese, then naturalize as Japanese.
Let’s think about this in simple terms. If Japanese people living in Korea or China said that they wanted social security because they were having trouble getting by, would they be given social security? There is no such system in Korea or China! What’s more, they’re making fools of the Japanese — they’d never give social security to people who are staying there illegally or who have come into the country secretly! Recently there are lots of young women from China and Korea coming to Japan on “working holidays” and working in brothels.
NHK shouldn’t just be reporting superficially on these things, they should report things in more depth!
If they’re just going to report stupid things like this then I ain’t gonna be paying my license fee.
I wish they would reinvestigate foreign recipients of welfare.
Are they really entitled to it?
Do they have any hidden income?
I don’t mind if they use my tax money if it’s to forcibly deport foreigners violating the system.
This is connected to the eradication of crime in Japan.
I really welcome the judgement.
We have no reason to feed and water lawless foreigners.
Don’t try and get out of it by using the broad term “foreigners”.
They’re talking about malicious people who’ve come from specific countries that are against our national interests.
Countries where the legal system doesn’t even function can’t say anything about this judgement, which is common sense and quite obvious to anyone.