The National Assembly Needs to Take the Upcoming Regular Session as a Chance to Overhaul the Current Social Safety Net for the Poor
The National Basic Livelihood Security Law should be revised to readjust the minimum cost of living and lessen family burden
The regular session in the National Assembly began on the 1st this month. The Social Welfare Committee of People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy(PSPD), chaired by professor Lee Tae-su at Kkottongnae Hyundo university of Social Welfare, has urged a fundamental and comprehensive amendment of the Act for Basic Social Security, which has been in operation for 10 years, in the upcoming National Assembly regualar session.
Diverse efforts have been made to enhance the effectiveness of the Act, but some 4.1 million people still live without economic aids from the government, suggesting that it still seems far away from the original goal of the Act and cannot take a role of socail safety net. In particular, the excessively strict criteria for family responsibility, which includes first kinship in lineal family members and the spouse, makes it difficult for about 1.03 million people live under the minimum cost of living to receive economic aids from the government despite the fact that their actual incomes are below the minimum cost of living, or because they are documented to receive support from their family members, who are in fact missing now and practically do not have any ability to support their family members.
In addition to this, prolonged disputes over necessities and the cost of them have been wastefully repeated every year, and the current system of determining the minimum cost of living has continued to exacerbate poverty and the income disparity by failing to properly reflect the different living standards among regions. Especially, although the government is making a big fuss that a 5.6% increase in the minimum cost of living next year is the second largest ever, yet it adds only 13,864 won to the minimum cost of living this year, totalling up to merely 436,044 won. This amount of money is barely a minimum cost of "survival" for them.
As minister Jin Soo-hee has stated in the National Assembly hearing on her appointment, the government so far has tried to get away with patching up the problem by lowering the criteria for family responsibility without bringing out some fundamental solutions such as the abolition of the criteria itself. Increasing the sum of monthly incomes of a receiver and his or her supporting family from the current level of 1.3 times the total of the minimum cost of living upto the level of 1.5 times, through which another 40 thousands are expected to be included in the social security program, will be never able to put an end to the problem itself. In fact, there has been an argument around for years demanding the minimum cost of living be significantly raised and the decision mechanism be overhauled, but the central committee for social security is almost ignoring the demand, only insisting it would continue its research and review on the problem, without fixing the deadline for the work.
The National Assembly should fix that government's problem. Recently, National Assembly's Health and Welfare Committee propose revised bills of National Basic Livelihood Security Law by lawmakers of Choi Young-hee of the Democratic party and Kwak Jung-sook of the Democratic Labor Party. The followings are contents of those revised bills. First one was relieving current qualification standard which limit the rights due to having family members who are obligated to support. Second one was differentiating the minimum cost of living by regions. Third one was readjusting the minimum cost of living to a realistic lebel by relative percentage way which reflects expenditure and earning of urban workers' household.
Last July, law-makers' participation in 'A month with the minimum cost of living' campaign organized by PSPD is late but welcomed; that are their efforts to keep the promise "to raise the minimum cost of living and relieve qualification of family member who must support" and to improve the reality of the poor who are not benefited from the governmental support. Yet, the important thing is lawmakers' sincerity that they could overcome the opposition of the government budget department only by the logic of budget and persist to listen to the voice of people who are asking the reconstruction of the social safety net.
Emphasized again, neglecting the poor but unsupported class violates the spirit of the National Basic Livelihood Security Law and ignores nation's first priority mission to protect people. The National Assembly and the government should carry out 'people friendly ' policies not just for show but for people. Reconstructing social safety net is the first step of real 'friendly people'. At the upcoming regular session in the National Assembly, the ruling and opposing parties should pass the amended bill which includes readjusting the minimum cost of living and unbinding the fetters of the existence of familiy members obligated to support.