People and Society, Social Services
social insurance programs, basic income, social welfare services, national budget, unemployment compensation
Japan has a well-developed social welfare system designed to protect the quality of life of legal residents against a broad range of social and economic risks. The system has four principal components. First, through public assistance it provides a basic income for people unable to earn enough on their own for subsistence. Second, it provides citizens with social insurance in the form of health and medical coverage, unemployment compensation, and public pensions. Most social insurance programs are funded by contributions from employers and employees, as well as by subsidies from government funds. Third, the system provides social welfare services to address various special needs of the aged, the disabled, and children. And finally, it provides public health maintenance to attend to sanitation and environmental issues and to safeguard the public from infectious diseases.
The cost of social welfare has risen in Japan and accounted for nearly 20 percent of the national budget in 1995. The recession of the 1990s, which added to the number of people receiving public assistance, has posed major challenges for Japanís welfare system. Furthermore, with the countryís rapidly aging population, providing for the needs of the elderly is becoming harder for the government. Subsidized nursing homes, regular health examinations, low-cost medical care, home care, and recreational activities at community centers are services for the elderly that may be impossible to provide in the future. The problem is made worse because the time-honored tradition of family members taking care of aged relatives is declining in Japan, putting more of the burden for care on government.
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