Is anyone paying the pensions?

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Japan is currently being rocked by pension scandals involving politicians from all over the place.

I was watching TV this morning, where it was showing hundreds of people turning up at City Halls to pay their pension, which begs the question – is anyone in Japan paying their pension?

We always heard stories of how in an aging society Japan wouldn’t be able to pay old people, and yet it turns out that the main reason for this is because no-one seems to be paying!

OK, that’s a little extreme. Most workers have the money deducted at source, and only self employed and some other groups (students strangely enough, self employed and many public employees for example) have to sort it out themselves. Kan-san, the leader of Japan’s opposition party quit over 10 months of non-payment, another LDP politician – Fukuda-san – went after not paying for (possibly) 8 years. Even my good friend Tokyo Mayor Ishihara didn’t pay some – though he blames his wife, and/or his accountant.

Some people are blaming the sheer complexity of the system, and it must be said, many of these systems are incredibly complex. However, when I worked at a city hall, and asked why these things were so complex, they answered that it was because they had to give so many council employees something to do – to aid employment. It sounds plausible.

Whatever the reason though, I feel sorry for those people who have been paying, month in, month out, knowing that they’re unlikely to see much of that money in their old age.

The foreign press also seem to have latched onto it – here.

There is some light in this though – the press really does seem more willing now to follow political scandal than they used to, and there’s a bit more investigation work going on, rather than just trying to find out which idol is dating which sumo rikishi.