What Nova Doesn't Tell New Hires - pension & health insurance

According to the law, all residents of Japan must be enrolled in two things: public health insurance and national pension.

Public health insurance for people who aren't enrolled in the employee system (more on that later) is provided through Kokumin Kenko Hoken (National Health Insurance), which is funded nationally but administered by local governments. Application is done at the local city hall, or ward office in the case of large cities. Premiums are paid monthly, and are around ¥2,000 for the first year, after which they are adjusted according to reported income. For people on an average teacher salary, they rise to around ¥20,000 per month.


Many teachers carry some sort of private traveler's insurance from their home countries and think it to be adequate, but it is not, as it doesn't waive the requirement to join the public insurance system. Non-participants can be charged for up to two years of unpaid back premiums, with ignorance not accepted as an excuse. Some city councils have been known to crack down hard on delinquents, going so far as to seize assets and garnish wages.

National Pension applications are also done at the local city hall/ward office, often automatically at the same time as National Health Insurance. Premiums are paid monthly at the rate of ¥15,590, with various discounts available according to financial need. One must pay into the pension system for 25 years (soon to be reduced to 10 years) before being able to collect payments from it. Disability payments are also made through the National Pension, with non-payers unable to collect. Lump-sum refunds of premiums can be applied for after leaving Japan. This ranges from approximately 45,000 – 275,000 yen. However, and some countries have totalization agreements in place that usually allow you to get some kind of credit towards your home country’s social security system.

The government is able to force you to pay pension premiums up to two years back if you have been in Japan but not enrolled. As the pension system is administered at the national level, enforcement is considerably less severe than National Health Insurance, but can still cause quite a bit of grief. Private collection agents are sent to harass delinquents by phone or in person at one's residence, and in extreme cases assets have been seized.



Why doesn't Nova tell people these things?

In addition to seeming generally indifferent to the needs of new teachers in an unfamiliar country, Nova likely wants people to sign contracts with as little trouble as possible. Informed of the enrollment requirements and the true cost of living, Nova’s advertised pay seems a lot lower, and attention is drawn to the dubiousness of Nova's contract conditions, with things like the time between lessons being unpaid to keep instructors strictly part-time employees, or even worse “independent contractors” in which case Nova doesn't have to deduct unemployment insurance or national income tax either. Nova is afraid that prospective teachers would balk and either give up on coming to Japan or look for work elsewhere.

 

What is that 'employee' system you spoke of earlier?

Whereas National Health Insurance and National Pension are meant for the unemployed, self-employed, part-timers, and students, normal full-time employees are supposed to be enrolled in Employee's Health and Pension Insurance, also called 'Shakai Hoken' or 'Social Insurance.' Premiums are charged monthly and are adjusted according to reported income, running around ¥35,000 per month on a teacher's salary, with matching contributions made by the employer. Both health insurance and pension are included in the cost, with considerably better coverage than National Health Insurance/National Pension. Among other things, dependent spouses and children are given health coverage, pension and disability payments are higher, and participants can be compensated for around two-third of their salaries in the case of extended absences from work, such as hospitalization. On a salary of 250,000 yen per month, the pension refund upon leaving Japan after 3 years would be around 750,000 yen (less taxes) as opposed to the National Pension refund of only 275,000 yen.

As you may have guessed, Nova doesn't generally enroll teachers because they don't want to make the matching payments.



I'm not in either system, and haven't been given any trouble so far. Should I really worry?

You might have passed under the various authorities' radars so far, but with enough time spent in the country they will eventually catch up with you. And regardless of how you may feel about the fairness of either system, you're on the wrong side of agencies with the power of the state who can make your life very difficult.

Also, with the start of the so-called 'My Number' system to centralize individuals’ records, there is the looming threat of a massive crackdown on all delinquents for both health insurance and pension.



I’m currently working at Nova. How can I improve my situation?

Contact the General Union at changenova (@) generalunion.com and we'll talk to you about how we can fight for proper health and pension coverage for all Nova teachers.

 

Find more information about the refund system here.

 

Additional information