I had thought that after working for five years in a salaried position, I would lose all my pension and retirement benefits because I was too old to expect to work for an additional 20 years to be eligible for a pension. I was wrong.
I had heard that people leaving Japan could recover up to three years of contributions to their pension and social security plans after they left. If you didn't leave, you couldn't collect, so I thought.
There is a strange loophole that might be useful for list members to know about. It applies only to people who have permanent residency or Japanese nationality, and it is an extremely good reason to seek permanent residency. The "magic" is in a feature called an "empty period" or "karakikan". The empty period is an interval of time spent outside of Japan after 1) one becomes twenty years of age or 2) April 1, 1961, whichever is later and ends when one comes to Japan (or possibly sometime time in 1981, whichever is later). Additional periods of absence from Japan can also be added to the empty period.
The entire empty period can be added to actual working time to arrive at a number of years towards qualifying for pension benefits. For example, in my case, I came to Japan in 1986. I was not in Japan at any point between 1961 and 1986. I turned twenty in 1961. For calculating my eligibility for retirement benefits, the entire 25 years, (or maybe only 20 years; it's a little obscure) is added to the five years I actually worked and paid into the pension and retirement plans. Counting my career this way, I have worked for the required 25 years and can draw pension benefits as well as social security, Kokumin Nenkin.
Based on rough calculations, I will draw a little more than 20,000 per month from the pension plan of the association of private colleges, effective retroactively from my 60th birthday and I will draw social security after age 65. Since I am now covered by social security, I can make back contributions for two years and additional contributions to social security for the next four and a half years and thereby increase the level of benefits I will receive. At that time I will be able to draw some 30 - 40,000 per month in social security. With this amount added to my US social security, I may even have enough to live on, down here in cheap Miyazaki.
The empty period only helps to reach the twenty-five year minimum work life to draw benefits. It doesn't affect the amount of money actually contributed, so my retirement benefits are quite a bit less than someone who pays in for a lifetime. But considering that I had thought my pension benefits were thrown away, I am getting far more than I once thought.
Finally, if you want information on the karakikan, consult with the social security office. Their information is different from that used by the city kokumin nenkin desk. When the two sides debated the issue, it was determined that the handbook used by the social security office trumps the handbook used by the city.
Note: Steve reports that he has begun to receive his payments! (June 29, 2002)
Steve's 2nd message on the "Issho" list, 2 May 2002