Written by France 24

An attempt was made on the Japanese Prime Minister’s life on April 5, 1990 by an elderly citizen hoping to be incarcerated and receive free social services. This latest attack continues the momentum of the Aging Adults Raging Protests, or AARP, a group coordinating protests by elderly Japanese citizens in the streets of Tokyo and other major cities. The group demands that the government take steps to ensure that their social services are not disrupted in light of the recent economic downturn.

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Japan is a leader in the provision of social services. Japan offers universal public healthcare to all of its citizens, as well as public assistance programs that cover housing, education, and other expenditures should a citizen be unable to pay out of pocket. Japan also provides a basic pension system for all of its citizens, regardless of employment.

However, in light of the recent economic downturn, the government has been unable to provide for these services, leaving the substantial Japanese elderly population most vulnerable. Although all public banks have since reopened after the dissolution of the violent “Occupy Japan” movement, the lack of funding has severely affected Japan’s over-65 population, who account for twenty per cent of the total population. The effects of the funding cuts have been felt severely enough that the AARP was formed, elderly protesters have taken to the streets, and many are committing crimes in order to receive the free social services in jail that they are no longer able to receive as free citizens.

The attempt on the Prime Minister’s life is the latest in a string of high-profile attacks by elderly citizens aiming to be incarcerated, including the beating of an Irish tourist in a public park in Tokyo. Jerry O’Seinfeld was beaten by elderly protesters shouting, “We have fallen and you have to pick us up!” While he is expected to make a full recovery, the attack highlights the frustration of the elderly community, and all involved are expected to receive jail time.

Members of the Japan Incorporated committee have had varying responses to the attack, with some highlighting the need for privatization and others insisting on a return to traditional Japanese values as a solution. “We should be working to privatize a lot of social services we’re offering,” the Minister of Foreign Affairs said. “If we privatize these and make them standard, receiving social services through an employer, there will be much less of a desire to go to prison and receive social services.”

The CEO of Mitsubishi disagreed, instead calling for a “Day of Fertility” to inspire Japanese citizens to increase the birthrate. “Japan makes great cars, but you know what we need more of? Babies,” he declared to the committee. He further called for tax breaks for families with more than two children in order to incentivize family growth. Increasing the Japanese birthrate would be a long-term solution to the issue, he argued, as it would prevent a future situation in which one-fifth of Japan’s population relies so heavily on social services.

Minoru Mori, a prominent Japanese business tycoon, pushed for a return to traditional Japanese values. “We need to return to traditional Japanese values that encourage children to take care of their parents in the cities,” he said, citing how the traditional kinship system in which children take care of parents and grandparents worked well to disincentive protests in the countryside. Because the elderly could rely on younger relatives for support, there was not nearly as high a demand for social services.

The committee has not yet issued an official statement on the protests and increased crime rate.