OPINION: Temporal Basic Income is Desirable for the Disaster-sufferers to rebuild and sustain their Living
Almost a half year has passed after the Great Earth Quake and Tsunami on March 11 in East Japan which jointly victimized nearly 16,000 people’s lives, made around 4,600 people missing, destroyed a large number of houses and facilities, and induced the nuclear power-plant accidents in Fukushima. The 3 prefectures (Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima) in the Pacific coast district of Tohoku [North East] Japan were severely double-devastated by the earth quake and tsunami. In addition, people living in areas surrounding the nuclear-power plant were forced to evacuate from the caution zones. For families which lost their members and houses, a lot of funds were raised by the private sector domestically and internationally, and the funds have been concentrated to the Red Cross Japan and others and distributed to the prefectures in the disaster districts. However, the distribution of consolation money to the sufferers is slumbering because many municipal governments have lost their offices and staff members. Prefecture governments in the disaster districts have built about 100,000 provisional housings (free of rent), accommodating many evacuees. Although many households intend to rebuild their own houses, they cannot get refinance of mortgages unless they refund their previous mortgage on the block. Still today, more than 6000 people are living in shelters.
What is the most serious problem is that most sufferers lost their income sources.
Employed workers lost their jobs because their work places were destroyed or swept away, and even survived firms are in difficulty to purchase parts and materials and to restore customers, and many of the firms suspended their businesses and eventually got into bankrupt. Thus a lot of workers lost their employment.
According to Asahi Shimbun [newspaper] (2011.9.6), 63,352 people in the 3 prefectures (Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima) were registered as disaster-affected job seekers at public employment security offices from March to July. Among them only 13,017 people (20.5 %) got jobs by the end of July. It is estimated that 30 % of job seekers got jobs through public employment secure offices nationwide in the same period. The lowliness of re-employment rate of job seekers in the devastated zones is notable. Asahi said “It is sure that more than a half of the disaster-affected job seekers have not been reemployed yet.” Among the job seekers 60,221 people were provided unemployment allowance from April to July (the first period of payment). For most of them the covering period of the insurance is 2 months. They can get an extension period of 2 months under the existing scheme, and 2 months under the extra rule for the disaster-affected job seekers. In any case, there will be a sharply increasing number of job seekers outside of the unemployment insurance starting in coming October.
The Pacific coast of Tohoku Japan has an industrial concentration of fishery and fish processing. However, many of the fishing boats were destroyed or swept away, fishing harbors and fish markets lost their function, and many of the processing factories were destroyed. Fishermen and fishery-related employees lost their job. Farmland in this area (mainly rice fields) was flooded by seawater and the soil got a high level of saline. It may need a couple of years to resume rice cultivation. Shipping regulations on and consumer avoidance of the agriculture, meat and fishery products from these areas in the concern about the radioactivity contamination due to the diffusion of radio-active matters caused by the nuclear power plant accidents are giving further sufferings to the farmers and fishermen.
In response to this situation, the government is trying to expand financing and subsidizing for reconstruction of these industries respectively. However, these programs are operated within the framework of existing schemes; therefore, they entail minute conditions and cumbersome procedures. They are not easily available for the people in hurry. Under the circumstances, it will take a long time to recover production and employment. Therefore, it is desirable to ensure income for the sufferers, i.e. paying basic income by the government on a temporary basis.
The activists and researchers concerned, centering on BIJP (Basic Income Japan Pursuers), have been campaigning for establishment of a Basic Income scheme for the sufferers. They organized 2 meetings in the Parliament House (to impress politicians) after April. They insist as follows:
1) The government should pay 150,000 JPY (2,700 USD) per month to all of the sufferers unconditionally and individually for 5 years.
The un-conditionality and individuality can enable the beneficiaries to flexibly plan living and get through situations responding to each condition of work, production and living.
Along with the basic income, the government and local municipal governments should enhance in-kind services such as care for elderly citizens, disabled citizens and children, job training, employment placement and so on.
2) If the scheme is targeted within people in the 3 Tohoku prefectures (Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima), the estimated number of beneficiaries are 5,670,000. The necessary budget is around 10 trillion JPY (180 billion USD) per year.
The government estimates the funds necessary for rehabilitation as a whole at between 20 to 30 trillion JPY. In addition, 10 trillion JPY may necessary for compensation for damages by the nuclear plant accidents. It is impossible to cover such a huge budget by usual measures such as tax increasing, budge cut down and issue of usual government bonds. A simple and effective measure is that the government issues extra government bonds and the Bank of Japan (the central bank of Japan) buys all of the bonds. The fund from the bank of Japan will be all used by the government. This means in effect that the government itself issues currency on security of its financial credibility. It may be a sort of government-issue note. This financial measure will not increase governmental debt at all.