Friday, October 12, 2007

Death reveals harsh side of a 'model' system in Japan - International Herald Tribune

re: "...Japan has traditionally been hard on welfare recipients, and experts say this city's practices are common to many other local governments. Applicants are expected to turn to their relatives or use up their savings before getting benefits. Welfare is considered less of an entitlement than a shameful handout. /"Local governments tend to believe that using taxpayer money to help people in need is doing a disservice to citizens," said Hiroshi Sugimura, a professor specializing in welfare at Hosei University in Tokyo. "To them, those in need are not citizens. Only those who pay taxes are citizens." /Toshihiko Misaki, head of the city's welfare section, did not refer to the three deaths as from starvation, but called them "solitary," and he defended the system. /"On the one hand, there are people who've done their utmost to remain standing on their own feet," Misaki said. "On the other hand, there are those who've gotten into trouble because they've led idle lives and are now receiving welfare. That's taxpayers' money. We get criticized by people who are trying their best, so we have to find the right balance." /With no religious tradition of charity, Japan has few soup kitchens or other places for the indigent. Those that exist — run frequently by Christian missionaries from South Korea or Japan's tiny Christian population — cater mostly to the homeless. /Like the diarist, the other two men were sickly, and they seemingly starved after their applications for welfare were rejected..."...

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