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Section 2. Definition of Social Security

1. Origin of Social Security

Social security is translated into "shakaihosho" in Japanese. In Japan, the expression of "shakaihosho" first appeared in Article 25 of the Constitution of Japan promulgated in 1946. After that the expression began to be generally accepted.

The English expression of "social security" is also relatively new. It began to be utilized in the 20th century. The expression appeared for the first time in a law in the Social Security Act of the United States that was enacted in 1935. At that time, the New Deal was implemented as countermeasures against the Great Depression, and it was urgently required to create economic security systems for the unemployed, etc. In European countries, on the other hand, social insurance systems had already been created and managed including unemployment insurance and medical insurance. In the United States, an old-age pension insurance system, an unemployment insurance system, and a public assistance system for the elderly and the needy with independent children were created for the first time based on the Law. The law was initially called "Economic Security Bill" when it was laid before the Federal Congress. It is said that because "economic security" had a narrow range of meaning and its concept was different from "social insurance" promoted in Europe, the expression of "economic security" was changed to "social security," which was created by combining "society" and "security."

Subsequently in 1938, a social security law was enacted also in New Zealand. In 1942, the International Labor Organization (ILO) published a report on the path to social security. In the report the Organization described the history of social security systems of different countries and the specific services or benefits provided under such systems, and introduced New Zealand's social security system as a new social security model. In the process, the expression of "social security" was generally accepted. Besides it is said that the expression was widely spread to the world by the incorporation of the proposals on "social security" in the Atlantic Charter. The Charter was announced after the maritime meeting held in August 1941 between Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and F. D. Roosevelt, President of the United States.

The English word "security" originates from the Latin word "se-curus." "Se" means "liberation" and "curus" means "uneasiness." That is, "security" originally meant liberation from uneasiness, or a peaceful situation without any risks or threats. The English word "security" has a wide range of meaning including "to feel safe," and "to be protected" and is used to describe a situation without any risks or worries. The Japanese word "hosho" is comprised of two Chinese characters. The first character "ho" () means a small castle, and the second character "sho" () means a fort. According to the "Kojien" dictionary, the word "hosho" has following meanings: 1) a castle and a fort; 2) to support for prevention; 3) to ensure that there will be no obstacles; and 4) to protect from damages or from destruction. Both the English word "social security" and the Japanese word "shakaihosho" mean "protection from risks through social systems."

2. Definition Given by the Advisory Council on Social Security

The concept of social security appears in Article 25 of the Constitution of Japan. Article 25 stipulates as follows."All people shall have the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living. In all spheres of life, the State shall use its endeavors for the promotion and extension of social welfare and security, and of public health." The provision thus ensures people's rights to live and provides the legal basis for social security systems.

The concept of social security expressed in the provision is somewhat similar to that adopted in the United Kingdom or in the United States. The concept, however, is not clearly defined. (Refer to the "Column.")

The definition of "social security systems" that has been most widely accepted in Japan up to present is that made by the Advisory Council on Social Security in its report of 1950. In the report, the Council defined the systems as follows.

"Social security systems mean the systems to enable every citizen to lead a worthy life as a member of cultured society. Social security systems provide countermeasures against the causes for needy circumstances including illness, injury, childbirth, disablement, death, old age, unemployment and having a lot of children by implementing economic security measures through insurance or by direct public spending.

Social security systems ensure the minimum level of living to the needy by public assistance, and they also promote public health and social welfare."

According to the definition, social security systems play the following three roles. First, the systems deal with the factors that may cause needy circumstances such as illness, injury, childbirth, old age, disablement, and unemployment by providing economic security through insurance (social insurance) or by direct public spending (social assistance). Second, the systems ensure the minimum level of living to the needy by implementing public assistance programs. Third, in line with the aforementioned measures, the systems promote public health and social welfare.


What does "social security" mean in the United States and in Europe?

Each country has its own "social security systems," which have been formed based on its nationality and values and reflect the social systems, economic situation and political conditions of the country. There are therefore a lot of differences in the mechanisms of and in services or benefits provided under the systems among countries. For example, public pension systems differ with countries in terms of financial resources, the premium level, ages at which the benefits begin to be provided, benefit levels, and requirements for receiving benefits. International comparisons of the social security systems should be made based on the recognition that there are diversified differences in the systems of each country. If made without such recognition, it might lead to misunderstanding.

In the first place, each country has its own definition of social security.

For example in the United Kingdom, social security means income security such as pensions and child allowances, while Japan's definition of social security systems includes those called "social policy" or "social services" in the United Kingdom. The "social policy" or "social services" have a wide range of meaning: income security, medical care (called "national health service" in the United Kingdom), personal social services, housing policies, education and employment.

Also in the United States, "social security" is often defined as income security such as pensions. The welfare services provided in Japan are called "human services." In the United States, "welfare" usually points to services that are funded by tax revenues and provided after the status inquiry, especially to the temporary assistance to needy families (TANF). The U.S. Social Security Act, however, is a comprehensive law, which provides for unemployment insurance, health services for fatherless families, human services for people with disabilities, medical services for the elderly and medical assistance in addition to pension insurance for ensuring income.

In France, social security ("Securite Sociale" in French) means social insurance such as sickness insurance and old-age insurance. In addition to Social insurance, social assistance (provision of cash and services to the ill, people with disabilities or to the elderly who have cleared the income criteria), social services (other social welfare services provided without an income limit) and the minimum income level security system for independence are collectively called "Protection Social."

In Germany, social security ("Soziale Sicherheit" in German) includes social insurance, social compensation (for the war victims, etc.), and social support (social assistance or support to students). German people, however, do not often use the expression "Soziale Wohlfahrt" (social welfare).

For the meaning of social welfare, the Advisory Council defined in the same recommendations as follows."Social welfare means to give necessary advice on living and rehabilitation and to provide other assistance and protection for people receiving public assistance, for people with physical disabilities, for children and for others needing help and protection to be able to display their abilities for independent living."

Besides in the first Annual Report on Health and Welfare of 1956, the Ministry of Health and Welfare explained that social security systems were the results of people's efforts to protect their own lives and health from the threats of poverty and illness.

As summarized in Section 1 of Chapter 1, Japan's social security systems aimed at providing "relief of the needy" and "preventing poverty" in the period from 1945 to 1954. Medical and welfare services were often associated with the relief of the needy and the prevention of poverty. It can be said that the definition made in 1950 by the Advisory Council on Social Security greatly reflected the trends of the period.

3. Recent Changes in the Definition of Social Security

As outlined in Section 1 of Chapter 1, Japan's social security systems have been greatly changed in terms of the scope, services or benefits provided under the systems, and the targets. At the same time, the systems have been expanding: the benefit levels have been improved the expansion of scale; new methods introduced; and the number of service providers increased.

For example, around 1950, when the Advisory Council made recommendations, the center of Japan's social security systems was the public assistance programs. The targets of the social security systems, however, have been expanded to include people other than those belonging to the low-income class. The establishment of the universal medical care insurance and pension programs, increase of the demands for medical and welfare services, and generalization of their use have promoted the expansion of the targets.

The benefit levels have also been improved from security of the minimum level of living. Employees' pension programs provide pensions taking into considerations the income of each employee before retirement. In the field of medical insurance, even the costs for advanced medical treatments are covered by insurance. The benefits levels of each social security system have exceeded the level of minimum security.

For the scale of social security, the social security benefit expenditure amounts to about \65 trillion on an annual basis, which is almost equal to the government's general account budget.

As an example of the introduction of new methods, a public long-term care insurance system will be established. In the system the services will be provided based on the contracts concluded between users and service providers, and the users, who have their independence respected will be given options on the services.Traditionally the long-term care services for the elderly have been provided as administrative measures within the framework of the welfare system for the elderly. For the expansion of service providers, not only the administrative organs including the national and local governments but also private companies and non-profit organizations are participating in the field of welfare services.

In accordance with the diversified changes made in the social security systems for half of a century after the end of World War II, there have been changes also in the definition of social security.

In the "Welfare Vision for the 21st Century" (report made at the meeting to discuss the vision about the aging society in April 1994) showing the direction of important social security measures for the 21st century, social security is defined as follows. "Social security is a mechanism basically created for income redistribution and mutual assistance based on the idea of individual independence and support by the social solidarity of people."The "Welfare Vision for the 21st Century" proposes to build a regional welfare system comprised of multiple layers of "self-support," "mutual support" and "public support" for the entire society to support welfare including families, regional organizations, companies, and the national and local governments based on the independence of each citizen.

In 1991, the Advisory Council on Social Security began to discuss at its newly created committee on the future of social security the basic social security requirements for the 21st century and the specific revision of each social security system. The committee made its first report in 1993 and defined social security as "provision of benefits at public responsibility to support people in danger of losing stability in their lives and to enable them to lead healthy lives without worries." The following Table 1-2-1 shows the outline of the social security systems and the related systems based on the definition given by the committee.

Table 1-2-1. Social Security Systems and the Related Systems

Social Security Systems and the Related Systems

The Advisory Council on Social Security, based on the report made by the committee, completed a document named "Recommendations on the Rebuilding of Social Security Systems - Towards a Society of the 21st Century in Which People Can Live without Worries" in July 1995. In the document, the Council explains that the social security principle was to ensure the minimum level of living around 1950 when the Council made its first recommendations but the principle has been changed to widely ensure people healthy and stable lives. It emphasizes that the ideas of people's independence and social solidarity will be the basis for supporting Japan's social security systems.

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