by Sayaka Maeda
Anne Allison analyzed the movement toward “individual responsibility” (jiko sekinin) in her book Precarious Japan. She said that the Koizumi administration went ahead with the policy: aligning with big business, privatizing more and more of government services under the banner of jko sekinin, and investing too little in social programs, including welfare, and it lead to falling worker’s wages, and increase of homelessness. She argued that Japan is already exposed to poverty.
I agree jiko sekinin has brought those negative points. Privatization causes cost cuts, and the reduced costs are labor costs. Therefore, the number of the unemployed and non-regular employment increases, or the workers may be fired, and some people lose their home, and become homeless and net café refugees. In addition, compared with state-owned companies, private companies need to seek profit. Therefore, I think there are national companies which should not privatize.
However, privatization has merits. First, it increases efficiency and productivity. In addition, the competition among companies occurs, and service and technology improve. Government’s income also increases.
Although privatization causes a lot of problems, and even if a privatized company benefits, the victims (by personnel cuts) should not exist. I think it is important to have limited government where jiko sekinin is needed, but social welfare should be assured for the right that people can live with security.
Now many of state-run companies were privatized, for example, the post office, JR (the former national railway), and some airports. Allison also talked about the Gold plan, which is the policy in which the government has shifted more responsibility to individuals and introduced measures to restructure care away from doctors and hospitals to more home-based care. These days, it is discussed whether a public nursery school should be privatized or not. By the privatization, they can increase the number of nursery schools, and receive more children, however, it becomes difficult to employ nursery school teachers for a long time.
On April 2014, the government increased the consumption tax from 5 % to 8 % to improve social welfare, for example, medical care and pensions, to address the aging population and declining birthrate. I think we have to watch whether the government properly uses our tax. In precarious Japan, I think the government should take measures as soon as possible.