My Number, Your Number, or the Government’s Number?  Is it a mandatory number?  While many people wonder, if it will be used to encumber; there’s no escape from this number.
Have you gotten your “My Number” yet?  Are you as confused as the rest of us about its implications?  With so little information about this new “social security tracking number” available out there, we contacted some highly knowledgeable individuals about all the aspects of “My Number” to find out what’s really going on with this new social surveillance project.

The Plan:
The Diet on May 24th last year, enacted a bill to launch the “My Number” system under which an ID number is assigned to every resident, Japanese or foreign alike.  While the number is sent out to everyone who has a registered address in Japan, a separate photo-ID card with an embedded electronic data chip will be issued to those who apply for one.

Pushed out by the government in an almost haphhazard “oh, by the way…” sort of manner (perhaps intentionally??), the new “My Number” notifications have at this point reached most households across Japan.  They say its purpose is to streamline communication of your information between various Government entities; however, many people think it is deplorable that the Diet passed the Bill without fully discussing problems that could arise with the introduction of the system, whose initial investment requires some ¥270 billion.  Yep, that’s ¥270 BILLION of your tax money, for something George Orwell would’ve been hesitant about to use in his writings.

paper encumbered by chains

I’m sure you’ve gotten a memo, message, or were asked personally by your employer to hand over the My Number info. Does that make you feel a bit uneasy? Do you really have to give the number to your employer, or did they simply withhold the information that you actually have a choice in the matter? 

As with most things in Japan, it’s not quite so cut and dry.  Here’s the info straight from the policy makers:

Earlier this month, the Diet passed a bill to revise the My Number system law so the ID numbers can be linked to bank accounts on a voluntary basis starting in 2018. This will make it significantly easier to monitor financial assets, and discover cases of fraud and tax evasion.  The government hopes to make the link mandatory from 2021.

The Current Situation:
So what does that mean for the average person in Japan? 
As of right now, you do not… I repeat… YOU DO NOT have to give your “My Number” to your employer. It is still your choice whether you want to provide it or not.  

Your employer will most likely ask you for the number, but (at least as of January 2016) it is not compulsory to give it. Our source called the “My Number” information Hotline and heard it straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.  While technically there is a mandate in place asking employers to ask their employees for the number, right now there is no legal punishment in place for those not wanting to provide it.
Why are there some people who do not want to give it away at this point?  Well, for some people, providing the my number details can actually be quite detrimental.  If people who aren’t paying into both pension/health insurance submit it and it gets shared between local governmental departments, then it will become much easier to know where you’re working and the bills for back payments for health insurance (either 国民健康保険, Kokumin-Kenkō-Hoken, or employee health insurance: 健康保険 Kenkō-Hoken) and pension (kokumin nenkin 国民年金) will find their way to your address in no time at all.  It is estimated that this will affect more than 2 Million people in Japan.
It has been stipulated by a growing number of citizens that this is the latest tactic to get money in order to quench the disappointing failure of “Abenomics”, which is quickly going down in flames.

Other people are concerned about the massive invasion of privacy, since “My Number” was decided non-democratically without the people’s input or permission and worry about its future implications.

Folder containing confidential information

As of right now, there are actually a growing number of people trying to sue the government for the invasion of their privacy this new system of control provides, saying that it goes against their constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy; and the number of cases / complaints is growing by the day. Click here for more information

Please don’t get us wrong, we’re in no way advertising that you shouldn’t submit the number, but do know that you have a choice at this point.  Whether that will be beneficial or detrimental to you is a case by case scenario and since we are not lawyers by any stretch of the imagination, don’t take this information provided herein as legal counsel.

Whether this new system is beneficial to you – only time will tell.  But now that you have all the information about “My Number”, it’s up to you to make the choice of who to give the information to, and who not.
Whether you think the new system is a good thing, or an invasion into your privacy, one thing is for sure, it’s not going away anytime soon. 

What do you think about My Number? Is it beneficial for the whole of Japan, or is it another layer of social and financial control?  Is it a good step for Japan, or a step back?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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