Date: Mon, 27 May 2002 16:26:54 +0900
From: "Steve van Dresser" <>
Subject: [ISSHO] More on pensions

A while back I reported on finding out that I was entitled to pension benefits after working only five years at a college in Japan. With the first payment now in the bank, I can be a little more definitive. Even having been told that I was qualified, I had lingering doubts. Several list members expressed an interest in getting more information.

There are at least three pension schemes in Japan, one for public employees, one for private companies, and one which can be for everybody, whether employed or not. I don't remember what the plan is called for public employees, but the private company plan is called koseinenkin and the one for everyone is kokuminnenkin. If you are employed, part of the health insurance/retirement insurance goes to either the public employee pension fund or private pension fund and part goes into the kokuminnenkin fund. If you are a temporary worker, i.e. not Japanese, a permanant resident or naturalized, you can get up to three years of contributions to koseinenkin refunded after you leave Japan. If you are self-employed, you are supposed to contribute a fixed amount to kokuminnenkin, which is currently 13,300 yen per month. If you are unemployed, you can continue to pay into kokuminnenkin. Contributions to kokuminnenkin are optional after age 60. Although participation in kokuminnenkin is said to be mandatory, it is unenforced. A big problem for Japan's retirement system is the growing number of young people who are not contributing. Another problem, more publicized, is the declining number of young people.

Generally speaking, after you have been contributing to the system for 25 years and after you reach retirement age, you can draw benefits. Benefits from Koseinenkin begin at age 60 and for kokuminnenkin at age 65. There are a lot of variations depending on what pension fund and when you were born. The amount of benefits is based on the amount of money contributed and the time over which contributions are made, i.e. how long you worked in Japan.

Since I had only worked for five years in salaried employment, and since I was not planning to permanently leave Japan, I had thought I would not be qualified for any benefits. This turns out to be untrue. For permanent residents, and for Japanese as well, any time after becoming an adult which was not spent resident in Japan or under salary from a Japanese company, is an empty period, "karakikan". In my case, I had not been in Japan from the time I was twenty until I was about forty-five and for another period of three years after that. I had to "prove" that I was not resident in Japan for those years. I brought originals of all my old passports for Japanese Social Security Officials to examine as well as copies of all relevant entry and exit visa pages (my idea). I also brought a time line chart showing where and when I came, worked, became a permanent resident, etc. to make their calculations easy. Within a few weeks I received an official notification that my karakikan was recognized. I sent a copy of this notification to the koseinenkin private fund organization. They use the same eligibility rules. Last week I received a formal notification of my retirement and the first payment, retroactive to my birthday last year.

The total period of my employment was calculated as 5 years of work plus some 28 years of karakikan, enough to qualify for pension benefits. The amount of benefit is based on actual contributions so I am not getting all that much. I am drawing Koseinenkin now and I have been determined qualified for kokuminnenkin when I become 65.

This seems to be a real benefit to becoming a permanent resident. I don't need visa renewals but I still have to get re-entry permits. I am making continuing payments to kokuminnenkin so my pension benefit levels will increase by when I start drawing in a few years. I will also be eligible for US social security payments next year. They should be much larger than the Japanese pension. Altogether, they should cover my shochu, karaoke, and pachinko expenses for a while.


Steve's 3rd message on the "Issho" list, 21 June 2002