Who gets Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare?

A Japan post.

I have been checking to find out if the Democratic Party of Japan leadership has decided on a head of the Health, Labor and Welfrare ministry.

This is the department which is in charge of the public pension systems.

As I blogged last month, the outgoing government had decided to discontinue a unit called the Social Insurance Agency and create a semi-public administrator called the Japan Pension Agency.

But the DPJ is not in favor of this idea. Instead, they want the Social Insurance Agency to continue, but with an enhanced budget (maybe 200 billion yen or about $2 billion USD extra).

At the English version of the ministry’s website, there’s been no new news. The link to the Social Insurance Agency only has an update about the Nenkin Teiki Bin, the annual notice telling you what you might expect in the future if you are paying into the system.

Regardless, this is a department that is going to be fast and furiously reformed by DPJ. It was the center of the pension scandal that finally broke in 2007. And the DPJ is already modifying the regulations to help people clean up missing pension records.

Like I alluded to yesterday, I am suprised that the Social Democratic Party (Shakai Minshuto), the smaller, more left-wingy new coalition partner to DPJ, wasn’t aiming for the Minster spot as the price to join the coalition. (Instead they made a big stink about the U.S. armed forces’ Futenma Air Base installation in Guam, which is subject to the Guam relocation treaty.)

If you want something that’s really a “get”, then a Ministry like HLW is the one. Trying to get the ruling party to shift policy on defense negotiations where the new government doesn’t have a great deal of wiggle room, well, I am not sure what you get from that. So I am hoping from an observer’s standpoint that there was something else to the coalition deal.

This is by no means the most hit blog in Japan. But I am surprised how many different searches there are in a 24-hour period about these foreigner pension and health insurance issues. (Kosei Nenkin, Kokumin Nenkin, Kokumin Kenko Hoken).

Since I don’t come up much in Japanese word searches, I have to assume the people searching are basing their search in English. And that word is getting around that Viva Vida, Global Health and Interglobal are not going to make the cut on visa renewals.

Although the immigration office said they would be looking for proof of adequate health coverage effective April 2010, I have heard of a few circumstances where the immigration department wants that material now (since it really is the rule).

If you have been in the work world for any length of time, isn’t it always the case that when the top level changes (in a shake-up change), everyone down below gets much more diligent about making sure i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. CYA. CYA. Right?

Well, wouldn’t you say that Japanese bureaucrats, Japanese in any organization are among the most thorough at CYA? (This is cover your ass, by the way, if you are unfamiliar with the acronym. Like, don’t let any obvious mistake or screw up happen, and particularly one that can be traced back to you.)

So I can just see this. All these gaikokujins line up over the next several months to get their renewals. But now Minshuto (DPJ) is in charge. And they are going to play some of the things by different rules.

Like I said, that is going to be one lonely scream (or moan or yelp) when something that used to be a “slide” before now is a critical defect. One lonely yell. And what are you going to say? “Well, when the old gang was in power, I used to get away with this!”

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