Guide to the Unemployment Insurance System in Japan

how much can I get each month in benefits if I lose my job in japan?

Unemployment is scary. You can suddenly find yourself piling up expenses with no way to pay them. It can be even scarier when you’re living in a foreign country and job options may be limited. Fortunately, Japan has a helpful unemployment insurance system that can offer relief to those who are in between jobs. 

Who is Eligible for Unemployment Insurance Benefits in Japan?

Japan’s social insurance program is designed for people who have lost or quit their jobs in Japan and are actively looking for new work. As such, individuals who are not actively seeking employment won’t be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. In order to receive unemployment insurance, applicants must meet three main requirements:

  • -Have the legal ability to work in Japan
  • -Have contributed to the social insurance (shakai hoken) system for at least 6 months
    (Note: those who voluntarily left their previous companies without extenuating circumstances may be required to have contributed to the system for 12 months within their last two working years)
  • -Be currently unemployed
  • -Be actively applying for employment through Hello Work

Those who work part-time or are dependents of other income earners may also qualify for unemployment insurance depending on the circumstance of their work and household income.

How Do I Apply for Unemployment Insurance Benefits in Japan?

The first step in applying for unemployment insurance benefits is to visit your local Hello Work office. You will need to prove your status of unemployment with a letter of separation (rishoku-hyo). This document should detail the term of your previous employment, the salary you received, and the circumstances of your departure.
(Note: Make sure to verify that your rishoku-hyo articulates the correct reason for your separation from your company before applying for unemployment insurance.)

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how to apply for unemployment insurance in Japan

In addition to the rishoku-hyo, you will also need to bring the following when applying:

  • -Your residence card and My Number card
  • -Your bank book or bank card
  • -Your hanko or personal seal (your personal signature can also be used)
  • -Two passport-sized photos, 3 cm x 2.5 cm each
  • -A record of your paid unemployment insurance premiums

You may need additional documentation expressing why you are currently unemployed. For instance, some people may be working on limited-term contracts and have not been offered a new contract by their company. In this case, they may need informal documentation from the company to verify that the contract was not extended.

How Much Money Can I Expect to Receive from Unemployment Insurance in Japan?

Once you have been approved for unemployment insurance, you can expect to receive 50-80% of the wages you earned before termination of employment. The exact percentage is dependent on your total salary. (Those who received a lower working salary will receive a higher percentage.)

Your daily wage will be calculated based on total income received (excluding bonuses), with a daily wage lower limit and upper limits depending on the age of the applicant. Depending on age and circumstances, most successful applicants can expect to receive benefits for at least 90 days and up to 330 days. 

How Long Do I Have to Wait Before I Can Receive Unemployment Insurance Benefits?

unemployment insurance benefits in Japan

After you have finished your application and interview, you will have a briefing with Hello Work. About a month after this briefing you should receive your unemployment certification, and your first benefit payments will be transferred one week later. 

The waiting period may be extended for those who quit their jobs voluntarily or are currently receiving part-time income. Due to the various processing times, this means that it will likely take between 1 and 2 months for you to start receiving unemployment benefits.

Preparing for Unemployment In Japan

Japan’s unemployment insurance system can help relieve the burden of sudden unemployment. However, there are still limitations. What if you’re unemployed for longer than the term of benefits? What if you have to accept a job at significantly lower wages than your previous salary? Preparing for the dangers of unemployment ahead of time can help you minimize these risks. 

An experienced financial advisor can help you set up a financial plan to ensure your security should disaster strike. Don’t wait until the next recession or global pandemic. Talk to an expert and start planning now to secure well-being for you and your family, no matter what comes.

Sources and Further Reading

- Monetary Policy and Unemployment: The US, Euro-area and Japan, Willi Semmler · 2004

- Japan's Emerging Youth Policy: Getting Young Adults Back to Work, Tuukka Hannu Ilmari Toivonen · 2013

- "Frictional Unemployment and the Role of Industrial Diversity", Curtis J. Simon, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 103, Issue 4