Being Lawfully Unemployed in Japan: What to do next?

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If nailing that nine-to-five corporate job in Japan is a dream come true, then getting laid off by your employer is a cruel wake-up slap in the face. After years of climbing the ladder, you find yourself officially unemployed in Japan without any follow-up job offer — and you’re virtually lost with no secondary source of income.

It can happen for a lot of reasons. Your company is downsizing, and you’re just the unlucky one to be drawing the short straw. The COVID-19 pandemic happened, and business goes south. Although Japan boasts a low and fairly stagnant unemployment trend, it finally reached a one-year high of 2.5 percent in 2020. In May 2021, the national unemployment rate soars again to 3 percent. Workers in Japan are forced to clean their desks and hand in their resignation. Companies go bankrupt and job prospects aren’t necessarily sunny — but you still need to be on your feet and map out your next steps.

In May 2021, the national unemployment rate soars again to 3 percent.

There is, luckily, a safety cushion for anyone who’s lost their job in Japan: unemployment insurance in Japan called koyou hoken (雇用保険).

In this article, we’ll gear you up with the legal terms of being unemployed in Japan, unemployment insurance benefits, the legal process behind them — and what you should do next.

Legal Disclaimer: The content provided does not constitute legal advice, are not intended to be a substitute for legal advice and should not be relied on as such. You should seek legal advice or other professional advice in relation to any particular matters you or your organization may have.

How long can you lawfully be unemployed in Japan?

According to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), you may stay in Japan for three months or more if you hold anything else other than students. This includes residence under a working visa sponsorship — which includes most of us.

If you don’t fall in the category above, you’re in better luck. Anyone with a Dependent, Spouse or Child of Japanese National, Spouse or Child f Permanent Resident, Long-term Resident or Permanent Resident is allowed to stay as long as they want. Either of these statuses allows you to live in Japan without employment sponsorship, but of course, your visa can still be revoked due to other reasons.

Where do the three months come from?

According to Immigration Control And Refugee Recognition Act article 22-4, you are allowed to stay three months in Japan if you do not engage in your visa-stated activities. In other words, if you are legally not employed.

Under specific conditions and within justifiable grounds, you may be exempted from the three-month time frame. For example, if you can prove to the immigration bureau concerns about natural disasters or specific disease preventions, the immigration bureau might consider it justifiable to extend your visa in Japan. One way or another, you will need an employer or someone to sponsor your residency in Japan.

What about the expiration date written on my resident card?

The three-month period overrules the expiration date. If you quit your job now, even if your visa ends two years later, you are still restricted by the three-month rule.

As mentioned in the article, how do you let immigration know when you are changing your job, immigration office receives a message from your employer about your leave. Therefore, the countdown begins.

How do foreigners get unemployment insurance?

What is unemployment insurance in Japan?

Designed and run by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the unemployment insurance, or koyou hoken, is a temporary financial cushion for unemployed workers, be it Japanese or foreigners, to support themselves. The unemployment insurance payments are included in your regular social insurance benefit, or shakai hoken, which is usually taken from your payslip. If you’re a part-time worker or freelancer, you will have to pay it personally as part of your national health insurance, or kokumin kenko.

So can foreigners get it?

The short answer is yes. Japan has established a well-structured insurance system and procedures for foreign residents unemployed in Japan.

To be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits, you must work in Japan for at least six months and pay your insurance before. Keep in mind unemployment insurance is for those who are between jobs and not for someone who is unemployed in the first place.

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How do you collect unemployment insurance benefits in Japan?

You can receive unemployment insurance benefits by going to the Public Employment Security Office. You will first visit Hello Work, a government organization designed to support foreign job seekers in finding employment in Japan. The Tokyo Employment Service Center and Shinjuku Foreigners’ Employment Assistance and Guidance Center are two employment centers for foreigners in Tokyo. There, you need to prove that you are, in fact, unemployed in Japan. They require you to bring the following items:

  • Letter of separation, or rishoku-hyo (given by the employer at resignation)
  • Residence card
  • Bank book
  • My number card
  • Hanko, or seal (if you have one)
  • Two passport-sized photos

Your previous employer should be the one to provide the letter o separation, or rishoku-hyo, and state the reasons for your departure and their decisions. If you resign without sufficient reason or were asked to leave for serious reasons, you will not be qualified for unemployment insurance.

After submitting an application in the Hello Work office, you’ll get the recognition of unemployment — on the same day. There’s a seven-day period in which you have to wait after you register and sort all the necessary paper works. From there, you’ll be able to collect your payments.

The higher your salary was before being unemployed in Japan, the smaller your unemployment benefits rate will be

Payments are calculated based on your previous salary, ranging from 50 to 80 percent of your wage. The higher your salary was before being unemployed in Japan, the smaller your unemployment benefits rate will be, as Hello Work operates under the assumption and report of your savings. However, it all depends on your age, career and reason for leaving as well.

So what goes after I collect my unemployment benefits?

You can’t just collect your cheque and be done for the day. After 28 days, you are expected to return to the office for an appointment to discuss your job hunting processes in Japan so far. The Hello Work staff would want to know if you’re not freeloading in the country and are actually applying for jobs. You would have to hand in at least two proofs of job applications or enroll in an educational institution like a language school, vocational school or university.

The process can get rigorous, if not tedious. Your caseworker will want you to specify the positions and companies you’ve sent applications to. The staff might also follow up on your profile and contact listed companies in Japan to do a cross-check.

How to find a job within three months?

After you’ve put on this safety neck, you can now focus on the real issue: finding a job in Japan. You’re fresh from your previous job, equipped with professional experience to get your foot through the door. It might be hard to land another job in Japan, but it won’t be if you know the right way to do job hunting in Japan. Coto Work is a platform that connects you to the top foreign-friendly companies. Send in your contact for more information.

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