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HOME  > Past issues  > 2017 December 20 - 2018 January 9  > Gov’t to regulate ‘poverty business’ exploiting welfare recipients
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2017 December 20 - 2018 January 9 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Gov’t to regulate ‘poverty business’ exploiting welfare recipients

January 6, 2018
Akahata on January 6 reported that a bill to regulate so-called cheap accommodations exploiting welfare recipients will be introduced to this year’s ordinary session of the Diet. Whether this measure can put a brake on the “poverty business”, which refers to money-making activities preying on the poor, will become the focus of attention.

The 2015 Welfare Ministry survey found that there are 537 establishments considered to be "cheap accommodations" across Japan. Of 15,600 users of such facilities, 14,143 receive public welfare assistance.

Among those lodging operators, some put two or three persons in one room separated by makeshift partitions and deduct from residents’ welfare benefit payments unreasonable amounts of money under the guise of the monthly cost for utilities and meals.

A 67-year-old male welfare recipient told Akahata about his experience at a "cheap" lodging house.

At that house, he was allocated a three-tatami-mat “room” divided by boards of only a few millimeters thickness and was offered three meager meals delivered in boxes. Whenever going out, he had to inform the house manager where he is going. His monthly income was about 120,000 yen in welfare benefit payments. However, as the house operator forcibly collected 95,000 yen every month as accommodation fee, he had little money to spend for himself other than purchasing daily necessities.

At present, there is no law to control such facility operators targeting welfare recipients. Some municipalities, however, take their own measures to counter the situation.

The Osaka Prefectural government has an ordinance which includes measures to tighten rules on cheap accommodations. Under the ordinance, for example, facility operators are required to notify the prefecture of services they offer at their facilities. Similar ordinances were established by the Saitama Prefectural and City governments.

A report on the “poverty business” which the Welfare Ministry compiled in December 2017 indicated that the ministry is discussing measures to protect the poor from the poverty business, including the setting of minimum standards for cheap lodgings and imposing prior registration of facilities to local governments.

Inaba Tsuyoshi, who heads a civil group tackling poverty issues, said, “We have been urging the national government to implement measures to eradicate the welfare recipient-targeting business for more than 10 years. What is important is to make the government-proposed bill enforceable."

Past related article:
> Welfare cuts lead to fatal fire accident in Kawasaki [May 24, 2015]
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