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Understanding Japanese Unemployment Insurance

Something everyone working in Japan should know about but hope they never have to use.

By 4 min read 2

For many foreigners, working in Japan is a dream come true. But what happens if the company goes bankrupt or issues layoffs and you lose your job? Luckily, the social benefits that are deducted from your pay can help. For anyone who loses their job or quits, there is a temporary fallback called koyou hoken (雇用保険), or unemployment insurance. If you find yourself in this situation, here are the basics you need to know about applying for Japanese unemployment insurance.

What is Japanese Unemployment Insurance?

Photo:
A temporary safety net while you job hunt.

The koyou hoken benefit or shitsugyou hoken (失業保険) is a temporary safety net for those who have lost their jobs. The scheme helps recently unemployed people support themselves until they find employment. It’s run by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare but anyone who wants to use the system will have to go through Hello Work (Japanese), the government organization that helps anybody in Japan find a job.

Who is Eligible?

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If you’re unsure if you qualify, drop by the nearest Hello Work.

Hello Work will look at your reason for unemployment, the amount of time you’ve paid into the system and other factors like age or industry. Generally, anyone who has been employed in Japan and has paid employment insurance for one year or more is eligible to apply. Unemployment insurance payments are wrapped up with pensions and health insurance as part of shakai hoken (社会保険), or social insurance benefits. These are all paid together and appear as deductions on your payslip if you are a full-time employee.

If your employer went bankrupt or you were fired, you need to have been paying employment insurance for at least six months during the last year. For those who are unsure if they qualify, check this document.

How to Collect Unemployment Benefits

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Get ready for tons of paperwork.

Before you head to the nearest Hello Work office to apply for unemployment benefits, here’s what to expect.

Step 1: Submit the following documents at Hello Work for verification

  • Rishoku-hyo (離職票 or official separation notice from your company)
  • Residence card (在留カード)
  • Bank book (預金通帳)
  • My Number card (マイナンバーカード)
  • Hanko (ハンコ)
  • Two passport-sized photos, 3 cm x 2.5 cm each

Your previous employer should provide you with a rishoku-hyo that states the reason for your leaving or dismissal. Sometimes, companies will add different reasons to this form if it’s easier for them, such as saying that you quit rather than that they fired you (a rather large discrepancy). Watch out for dodgy business practices like this as it can change how long you have to wait before collecting any benefits.

Step 2: Waiting Period

Once you have submitted the paperwork, there is a seven-day waiting period. Afterward, the payments are deposited into your savings account. This applies to those who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. If you quit your job, your application will take longer to process as you chose not to work. The length of time varies depending on the circumstances, but it can take up to three months past the seven-day waiting period.

Step 3: Verification of Unemployment Status

To continue to receive unemployment insurance payments, you have to show proof of applying to at least two jobs per month. You will be required to return to Hello Work every 28 days to discuss how you have been looking for work and to fill out a form indicating what jobs you have sent applications for. The Hello Work staff will follow up from there by contacting the companies you have listed. This appointment is difficult to reschedule, so make sure you pick a day of the week that you are always free until you get a job.

Step 4: Receiving Unemployment Benefits

Payments will be based on your prior salary, age, career and reason for unemployment. Usually, you will receive 50% to 80% of your previous salary from the last six months divided by 180. If you were earning a high salary before being unemployed, that number is closer to 50%. Those who have a lower salary will receive closer to 80%. The length of time you can receive benefits varies. In some cases, 90 days to a year from the day after you lost your job.

What About My Visa Status?

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Do I have to leave now?

Losing your job does not cancel your work visa for Japan. You have three months to look for a new job in the same field after notifying Hello Work of your dismissal. If you do not secure a new job in time, immigration will revoke your visa. This rule doesn’t apply to permanent residents, spouses and children of Japanese citizens.

Have you ever had to apply for Japanese unemployment benefits? How was your experience? 

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  • DD says:

    “Unemployment insurance payments are wrapped up with pensions and health insurance as part of shakai hoken (社会保険), or social insurance benefits. These are all paid together and appear as deductions on your payslip if you are a full-time employee. Part-time or freelance workers will have to pay their insurance independently as part of their kokumin kenko (国民健康) hoken, or national health insurance.”

    The last sentence here seems to infer that paying into kokumin kenko provides unemployment coverage for freelancers. I believe this is incorrect. If I’m wrong, can anybody point me to official info indicating otherwise?

  • Ss says:

    Is a person eligible for unemployment benefits for multiple times if the company is a reason for job loss?

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