Japan Health and Pension Insurance 保険
If you are aged 20 years or over and have a visa allowing you to stay in Japan for more than a year, you are required by law to be enrolled in a government health insurance scheme and pension fund. The kind of insurance you are required to join depends on your situation.
Generally, if you are working, you are required to join Employees' Health Insurance (kenkou hoken 健康保険) and Employees' Pension Insurance (kosei nenkin 厚生年金). Together these are referred to in Japanese as shakai hoken 社会保険, or "social insurance."
If you are self-employed or not working, you are required to join the National Health Insurance (kokumin kenko hoken) scheme.
National Health Insurance (Kokumin kenko hoken)
The National Health Insurance (kokumin kenko hoken; 国民健康保険) insurance system is for those who are self-employed, unemployed, or retired. If you are not enrolled in Employees' Health Insurance, enrolment in National Health Insurance is compulsory. It is administered by your local authority (i.e., your local town hall). The premium is calculated on an annual basis, from April 1 to March 31 according to the amount of tax the insured pays, any property he or she owns, and number of dependents. It covers 70% of your inpatient or outpatient medical expenses.
Employees' Health Insurance (kenkou hoken 健康保険)
Employees' Health Insurance (kenkou hoken) is available only to those who have employment in Japan with a registered company, or, if not a registered company, a workplace comprising 5 or more people. You cannot apply for it as an individual; it must be done for you by the company or organization you work for. The monthly premium is shared equally between employer and employee, is calculated based on how much you earn, and your half of it is deducted monthly from your salary.
Employees' Health Insurance covers 70% of your medical and drug costs, including dental treatment, and ensures that your share of your medical bills will be no more than 80,100 yen a month. If you have given birth to a child, you will receive a lump sum of 350,000 yen. When taking maternity leave, you will be paid 60% of your salary for the 42 days before childbirth and the 56 days following it. If you die, the person taking care of your funeral arrangements will receive a set amount, and any dependent you have will be receive 100,000 yen.
Employees' Health Insurance eligibility
There are only 8 exceptions to the requirement for employers to enroll their staff in Employees' Health Insurance. These exceptions, as stipulated in Article 3 of the Health Insurance Law, are:
Part-time workers are not exempted from Employees' Health Insurance and have the right to join. Unfortunately, there are cases of even the Social Insurance Agency conniving with employers to deny employees entry to Employees' Health Insurance on the basis of those employees being part-time. But, as long as you are an employee regularly receiving wages from an employer, whether you are part-time, full-time, have a contract or not, by law your employer must enroll you in Employees' Health Insurance within five days of your starting work as an employee.
Bottom line: join a union before trouble happens.
Employees' Pension Insurance (kosei nenkin 厚生年金)
If you have Employees' Health Insurance, you are also required to join the Employees' Pension Insurance (kosei nenkin) scheme.
Those who are part of Employees' Health Insurance and are aged 70 years or under must also be enrolled in Employees' Pension Insurance. As with the Health Insurance, the premiums for Pension Insurance are deducted monthly from your salary. However, even those not legally required to join may apply.
The rules are somewhat complicated, but basically, after 25 years of contributions, you can claim a regular retirement pension once you retire, even if you spend your retirement outside of Japan. If you are a non-Japanese citizen who has made less than 25 years' worth, but more than 6 months' worth, of contributions, you are eligible for a lump-sum withdrawal payment, to be applied for within two years of leaving Japan. Go to the website of the Japan Pension Service (previously Social Insurance Agency) for details.
Monthly contributions are presently around 15,000 yen per month. You are likely to receive 40,000 yen a month in pension payments from 65 until death.
A note of warning: the Japan Pension Service (previously Social Insurance Agency) does not always play entirely fair in cases of claims for Employees' Pension Insurance. It is therefore highly recommended that you acquire permanent residency rights from the immigration office to increase your chances of being granted a pension.