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Hi Blog. This entry is more of a query than a conclusive essay. I raise the question because we’re seeing the intended aftereffects of the 2012 revisions to the Immigration law (which allowed for NJ to be properly registered as residents on the Juuminhyou, but also centralized control of IC-Chipped Gaijin Cards in the national government) emerge. And allegedly more targeting of NJ in terms of social welfare schemes.
A friend of mine writes in (edited):
Don’t know if you’ve heard about the latest moves by the GOJ to milk foreign residents of their hard-earned cash. They are looking into NJ with the help of that new IC chip torokusho card and making people pay for the kokumin hoken health insurance AND nenkin pension they have never paid into.
I know several people who have been hit with this and it has drained their bank accounts. They can’t even afford the plane ticket to go back home and see ailing parents. They said a lien would be put on their account/pay checks if they didn’t pay.
A teacher I know (in his 40s) has been here some 10 years and has NEVER paid into the health insurance scheme nor nenkin. He called up city hall inquring about this and they said yes indeed he is delinquent will have to pay up all those missed years! They asked his name and he said thank you and hung up the phone!
Another friend of mine got zapped for back payments. Every month he was being charged fines/penalties for late payments. So even if he negotiated returning to a monthly fee he would still have to pay a huge amount in extra fees. So he paid it off lump-sum and has depleted all of his savings.
The health insurance is important as one needs that to ensure treatment here, but having NJ pay into the nenkin scheme if they feel they will not be here forever to pay into it is ridiculous. Any advice on how to get around this? I’d love to hear what you think on the matter.
COMMENT: We talk about Japan’s social welfare systems in detail in HANDBOOK FOR NEWCOMERS, MIGRANTS, AND IMMIGRANTS (and my eBook GUIDEBOOK FOR RELOCATION AND ASSIMILATION INTO JAPAN). Personally, I take the side of everyone paying in. I believe that everyone in a society should support the national umbrella insurance systems, because opting out by saying, for example, “I’m not sick now so I don’t need it; I’ll only sign up when I get sick,” is fair-weather freeloading, as if you’re expecting a return on an investment when you need it but you didn’t make the investment in the first place. (National systems can’t remain solvent like that. These issues were developed and ironed out during the Obamacare debates.) Also, saying that “I can’t see myself retiring in Japan so I shouldn’t have to pay into Japanese pension” is also bad logic, especially given Totalization Agreements Japan has arranged with a number of societies (also covered in HANDBOOK/GUIDEBOOK) for pensions to be started and completed in different countries.
That said, there are a couple of issues that affect NJ differently here. One is that one of the reasons why some J have not paid in is because their employer (who is responsible to pay in half of their employees welfare benefits if they work 30 hours a week and up, i.e., full time) didn’t pay in their half. This is often unbeknownst to the NJ employee and a tax dodge by the employer. Yet the person who gets chased down for the back payments is the NJ employee.
Another issue that affects everyone is that Japan’s pension system basically requires 300 months (25 years) of work before you qualify for any pension (although I have heard that might be changing to 10 years’ minimum investment). That’s the longest minimum pension investment for any industrialized society. But since that affects everyone, that’s part of the price you pay to live in Japan.
The difference is that for the Japanese public you get a nicer attitude and less draconian enforcement. Japanese just get official posters nicely cajoling them to pay into the social welfare schemes, but there is no real enforcement unless they want future pension payments (or to avoid public shame, as was seen in 2004 when Japanese politicians were caught not paying in). But for NJ, now that all of their visa and registry issues have been consolidated behind Central Control, their very visa renewals are contingent upon paying into social welfare, and they’re being chased and shaken down for the money. It’s a very different approach, and the newfound dragnet further encourages bureaucrats to scrutinize and treat NJ as potential social deadbeats. It’s one more official way to treat NJ as “different”.
Anyone else out there being officially shaken down? And for how much? Arudou Debito