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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 April 19 - 25  > Why the right to life is considered a fundamental human right?
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2017 April 19 - 25 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Why the right to life is considered a fundamental human right?

April 23, 2017
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has released data indicating that in December 2015 the number of families on welfare exceeded 1.63 million, surpassing the previous record high and showing a continuous upward trend. The number of people aged 65 and older accounted for more than half of welfare-dependent households in Japan in Mach 2016 for the first time, which revealed that more and more elderly people fell into poverty because they received little or no pension benefits. Deaths of the elderly due to social isolation or starvation have been frequently reported. The issue of absolute poverty has become a major social issue.

Only 15% of eligible people receives social protection in Japan

The percentage of eligible people covered by the national social protection program in Japan is 15%-18%, unusually low compared to 91% in France and 82% in Sweden.

Local governments’ so-called “shoreline operation” tactics to refuse welfare applications in various ways and mass media propaganda about illegally received welfare benefits, which make up only 0.5% of the total benefit payments to recipients, have created the environment promoting prejudice against public assistance recipients and keeping needy people from gaining access to assistance.

Furthermore, people on welfare are being met with government’s cold-blooded measures such as cuts in additional benefits for elderly recipients.

The underlying cause of these situations is the government’s stance disregarding Article 25 of the Constitution which stipulates that the “State shall use its endeavors for the promotion and extension of social welfare and security, and of public health.”

In this context, it is necessary to understand why the right to life is universally acknowledged as a fundamental human right.

Putting an end to anti-people politics is vital

Hitotsubashi University Professor Emeritus Watanabe Osamu pointed out, “The evolution of capitalism had developed public awareness of the need to protect ‘individual people’s dignity’ from capitalists’ outrageous behaviors under the name of ‘freedom’ which caused poverty, social inequalities, and environmental destruction. This has brought about the recognition of the right to life as a basic human right.”

He explained that unlike traditional civil liberties, including the right to expression, which need to be protected from government control, social rights like the right to life will be secured only by obliging the state authority to ratify into law social rights and have the law enforced.

Watanabe said, “People are unable to enjoy their right to live a good and decent life under a government reluctant to improve the social welfare system, medical and other social services, and workers’ working conditions. The creation of a people-oriented government is vital for the general public to safeguard such a right.”

Past related articles:
> Abe’s welfare policies drive the needy to death [June 10, 2016]
> Growing number of municipalities invite people to inform on ‘unfair’ welfare recipients [May 18, 2014]
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