The government plans to revise the law to help housewives who might fail to receive the pensions they expect, repealing the current controversial relief measures, sources said.
Specifics of the revision are being worked in hopes of ensuring a fair system for all full-time housewives paying into the pension system, they said.
Welfare minister Ritsuo Hosokawa, appearing before a Diet committee Wednesday, again offered an apology over the matter. He said he won’t resign, but he will voluntarily return his ¥3.7 million salary as a minister from last September to next month.
He is trying to avoid becoming another target of opposition attacks after Seiji Maehara was cornered into stepping down as foreign minister because he received political donations from a foreign national, which is banned by law.
Senior officials at the welfare ministry, including the head of the pension bureau, will see their monthly salaries reduced by 10 percent for two months.
Full-time housewives’ pension premiums are covered by their wage-earning husbands’ premium payments. But if husbands change their status from salaried employment, their wives are required to make premium payments for their own pensions.
There could be more than 1 million full-time housewives who have failed to make such payments and may therefore receive lower than expected pensions or no pension at all.
The controversial relief plan gives preferential treatment to housewives who have failed to pay premiums in full because the two-year time limit had been reached.
The ministry launched the waiver in January, based on a notice from the department chief in charge, to pave the way for full pensions to be paid to full-time housewives by requiring that they pay premiums for just two years.
But the waiver was criticized by opposition parties, which said it was unfair to housewives who had paid all of the premiums due.
As of Jan. 30, the ministry had received 2,331 applications for the relief measures and decided to grant pensions in 493 cases.
Hosokawa told a Lower House committee Tuesday that the pensions for the 493 housewives could be reduced if a new relief measure is adopted.
The number of applications increased to 5,854 by Feb. 23, according to the ministry.