I was surprised to learn a while back that Japanese High Schools charged tuition. According to the Japan Today/Kyodo News site, though, as of today, public high school in Japan is free. So I think at this point Japan caught up (in 2010) with the rest of the developed world in having a free, universal system of secondary education.
Also, April 1 marks the beginning of the new visa renewal guidelines that I’ve discussed about once a month here. It will be interesting to hear the reports coming down as to whether people will still have been able to flout the requirement to be enrolled in pension and health insurance.
What I’m hearing anecdotally is that ward offices are starting to get tighter about who is in. So that is, even if someone has no visa renewal or any immigration matter currently, they might still get a notice from the ward office asking about the insurance.
Others might have a different take on this, but it seems to me that if the social insurance programs are running on tight budgets, it is more and more likely that those who are not in the program they are supposed to be are going to be asked about it.
Sometime next month, the serious part of the DPJ (Ministry of Health Labor and Welfare) is going to propose the long-awaited changes to the pension system here. One strong possibility is to adopt a Canada-style system, where the basic pension is collected out of ordinary taxes (probably the consumption tax), and then there is an additional, universal contributory pension on top of it.
How this might work is that the nenkin coupon system goes bye-bye. Instead, the consumption tax is raised to a number higher than 5%. (I don’t know what it would have to be.) This money would fund the basic pension, the amount DPJ/Minshuto is saying would be 70,000 yen a month. In Canada, this is comparable to “OAS”.
The contributory pension would be a surtax on income.
The different employer systems would be discontinued. (So shakai hoken would no longer be this special plum. Everyone would be in the same system.)
I imagine Japan would also do a third-tier “defined contribution” plan, maybe tax-favored.
The bottom line on all these changes is that Japan is a pretty wealthy country. But by other measures, Japan is broke. So I think the hard work of “regime change” (seiken koutai) will be determining how the pie gets cut going forward.