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HOME  > Past issues  > 2016 December 21 - 2017 January 3  > Sympathy among people is vital to secure the right to live
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2016 December 21 - 2017 January 3 TOP3 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Sympathy among people is vital to secure the right to live

January 3, 2017
As the Abe government is pushing ahead with its runaway policies, people’s fight for the right to live, which is guaranteed under the Japanese Constitution, is likely to further intensify in 2017.

In 2016, two major events shocked Japanese society. One of them was a mass murder that took place at a facility for mentally retarded people in Kanagawa Prefecture. The murderer was a devotee of the idea of eugenics spread by the Nazis. Adolf Hitler, the Nazi leader, killed many disabled people in gas chambers, claiming that they were “not worth living”.

Article 25 of Japan’s postwar Constitution guarantees people’s right to live. Then, are people’s lives really protected under this Constitution?

Under the slogan of “intergenerational equity”, the Abe administration is eagerly encouraging the working generation to be at odds with the elderly. Underlining “self-responsibility” and an “independent spirit”, it has slashed social security budgets and helped to increase poverty and widen social gaps among the general public.

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo shares with Hitler a neoliberal view of human beings which is based on an exaggerated belief in efficiency. Affected by Abe’s tactics, some people are directing their anger at recipients of social benefits, such as the elderly, the disabled, and families on welfare.

The other shocking event which was brought to light was the fact that a suicide committed by a new female employee at Japan’s leading ad agency, Dentsu, was officially recognized as overwork-related.

The worker’s work records show that she worked more than 130 hours of overtime a month. However, the numbers of overtime hours she had reported to the company were all less than 70 hours a month, the upper limit on overtime agreed upon between labor and management. This suggests that the firm forced its staff to underreport the overtime hours actually worked.

In 1991, a male worker at Dentsu, 24, also killed himself after suffering from excessive overtime work. The worker’s father said to Akahata at that time, “If the company learns lessons from this tragedy and improves the working conditions, my son’s death would be meaningful.” Successive governments should also be blamed for failing to close a legal loophole which allows employers to make employees work without limitation.

Instead of placing a legal limit on overtime, the Abe administration intends to put forward a bill to introduce a “zero-overtime payment” system which will undoubtedly further increase deaths from overwork. While many workers are forced to work excessively long hours, large corporations’ internal reserves reached a record high of 386 trillion yen in fiscal 2015.

The need now is for the public to unite to take action in order to change the profit-first society into one that gives top priority to protecting people’s lives.
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