Senior Citizen's Initiatives
Mandatory Retirement Reform
New Komeito led the way in revising a law that previously set the retirement age at 60, allowing companies today to choose between extending mandatory retirement to 65 or lifting the limit altogether. Either option is expected to significantly expand employment opportunities for older workers. In addition, smaller firms that extend their mandatory retirement age to 70 will be eligible for a government subsidy worth up to 1.6 million from fiscal 2007.
Banning Elderly Abuse
In November 2006, a law prohibiting the abuse of senior citizens-broadly defined to include neglect, bodily harm, sexual abuse and financial deprivation-by their families or legal custodians went into effect, part of a larger legislative package that provides custody services for abuse victims of any age that New Komeito was instrumental in engineering. The law, first proposed by our party in 2003, also requires individual to report any incident of abuse to the proper authorities, and the right of local governments to intervene on behalf of the victim. Counseling is also provided to caretakers. Of the more than 50 nations that are participating in a global network to prevent elderly abuse, just three as of 2006-the United States, South Korea and Japan-have passed laws prohibiting such abuse.
Promoting Barrier-Free Facilities
Under a New Komeito initiative, senior citizens that do not require nursing care, or have been certified as requiring minimal support, are eligible for three new services, including fitness training and dietary counseling, as of April 2006. Supervised exercise and diet regimes have been shown to extend unassisted living for the elderly, which will also serve to hold down burgeoning nursing care costs.
Proactive Care Program
New Komeito led the effort to make human smuggling and trafficking a crime, working with the Justice Ministry to impose stiffer sentences on offenders by revising the criminal code and immigration law. The ministry complied, and over a two-year period beginning in 2005, the number of victims placed in government custody or returned to their countries of origin fell by some 60 percent. Almost all of the victims are women. A majority come from Southeast Asia and forced to work in the sex industry.
Capping Medical, Nursing Care Costs
New Komeito successfully lobbied for a payment ceiling to be instituted on the amount that subscribers to the national medical health insurance program has to pay if he or she is also paying for the government's nursing care insurance. Starting from April 2008, senior citizens aged 75 and over will pay a maximum of 560,000 yen a year if they are paying both medical and nursing care insurance, a reduction of some 420,000 yen from the past. Low-income families will also be entitled to the same reduction.
Additional Assistance for the Disabled
New Komeito has also led the way in the adoption of various government subsidies and entitlements to individuals with progressive learning disabilities, citizens who had subscribed to the national pension program but can no longer afford to, as well as physically challenged citizens who require living assistance.