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Japan: Welfare breaks for elderly divorcees hit

 

Japan Times

 

July 4, 2003

Japan - A welfare ministry proposal to ease the financial burden of elderly divorced women has come up against some heavy criticism.

The proposal, unveiled Thursday by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, would divide employee pension benefits between salaried employees and their dependent spouses.

But some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party complain that it would only drive up the divorce rate.

The ministry made the proposal during a meeting of the Social Security Council, an advisory panel to health minister Chikara Sakaguchi.

At present, salaried workers' dependent spouses, mostly women, are not required to contribute to the national pension system but are able to receive basic pension benefits in their old age.

Employee pension benefits, paid in addition to the basic benefits, are currently paid to salaried workers themselves.

The ministry's proposal for dividing employee benefits between spouses is designed to deal with the rising divorce rate among elderly couples, which often leaves divorced women in financial difficulties, according to the ministry.

Under the proposal, dependent spouses would receive up to 50 percent of employee pension benefits.

But the proposal drew fire from members of the LDP's panel on pension systems when the ministry briefed them on it in May. The members said the proposal would push the divorce rate higher.

The proposal also faces criticism from wives in double-income and self-employed households who believe it favors housewives of salaried workers.  


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